O’Sullivan’s Reason For Giving Whitey Immunity – II

Pretty Soon In Boston’s Fields The Poppies Will Blow

In Part I yesterday I suggested that the information in the FBI files may support Whitey Bulger’s claim that he was not an informant. Even though that is the case, we still have to decide upon a definition of informant.

Whitey Bulger would consider one to be an informant in the sense the word is used by the Irish: it applies to one who undermines the cause or betrays his allies or the people he associates with in the fight. In the Irish mind it was anyone who cooperated with the British and gave information about the individuals who belonged to the Irish groups fighting for freedom which undermined The Cause of a free Ireland.

In Ireland it was easy to determine this. The Cause was clear. Things were black and white. The most recent enemy was the Black and Tan.  It was the prototypical George Bush situation of “if you’re not with us you’re against us.”

It is now more difficult determining who is an informant when The Cause no longer exists and the Troubles are over. Things are gray. What now is the Cause that cannot be betrayed?

What does Whitey believe is the Cause. Was Whitey’s cause himself? Did he believe he could do whatever he wanted as long as he did not undermine himself? Or was it he and Stevie Flemmi and some other gangsters, especially those involved with Winter Hill or South Boston? Did it include the Mafia? Drug dealers? Or only those drug dealers who were allies? Was it as broad as not giving any information that would lead to an arrest or conviction of any person?

In other words Whitey could believe he was not an informer but others with a different definition could decide otherwise. More things have to be examined before a definite conclusion can be reached. Will we conclude after a closer examination of Whitey’s record that he seems not to have given the FBI any actionable information? We need not totally resolve the issue now.

To go on, let us concede that Whitey was not an informant. How then do we answer the question that so baffles the prosecution: why would O’Sullivan give immunity to Whitey in exchange for him not giving any information back in return for it. In other words there had to be a quid pro quo for the immunity and the only one that could be is Whitey’s giving O’Sullivan information.

We’d all agree O’Sulllivan was not handing out immunity deals as Whitey handed out Hoodsies on the Fourth of July at Columbia Park to any kid who wanted one. There would have to have been a very substantial reason for him to do that. I suggest it would have to be even more than agreeing to provide information since O’Sulllivan dealt with many informants and gave none immunity.

What is it that Whitey would do for O’Sullivan that O’Sullivan would deem of such great importance that it would warrant that kind of deal?

I’ve suggested before that O’Sullivan may have worried about the safety of law enforcement officers and told Whitey in exchange for preserving their safety he’d make sure Whitey wasn’t charged. We have heard that at least on two occasions Whitey did give information that got cops out of difficult situations. I now think though that’s a far stretch. That would not lead to O’Sullivan granting immunity. He’d figure the cops could take care of themselves without Whitey’s intercession or not even envision such a situation occurring.

We have to go back to the time in question. We have to find something that was supremely important to O’Sullivan that would justify him making the deal with Whitey. Whitey had to be the only one who could bring it about. Instinctively Whitey would recoil at doing it and would have to be induced to do it because if Whitey stuck to his guns O’Sullivan would have been put in a big bind.

In other words it had to be something Whitey would not want to do, that only he could do, and that O’Sullivan considered critical to his mission.

I’ll explain tomorrow.



19 thoughts on “O’Sullivan’s Reason For Giving Whitey Immunity – II

  1. Matt, today Judge Stearns ruled O’Sullivan could not give “prospective” immunity to Whitey or anyone else. The judge said he’ll decide the issue of retrospective immunity later. According to today’s Huffington Post: “Bulger’s lawyers have said only that O’Sullivan – some time before December 1984 – promised Bulger immunity from prosecution for all past and future crimes, up to and including murder.” Implicit in Stearns’ ruling is that O’Sullivan does have the inherent power to grant retrospective immunity. All of Whitey’s alleged murders except one were committed prior to December 1984. Whether retrospective immunity was granted seems to be a factual matter for the jury to decide. Stearns apparently thinks otherwise. Will Stearns’ rulings be declared a nullity if the Court of Appeals decides he has to recuse himself?

    1. Bill:
      I talked about that in today’s post. Two ways to look at this: Stearns quickly issued his decision because he knows the Court of Appeals is going to take him off the case and wanted to help the prosecutors along one last time; or, he knows he’ll not be removed an wants to move the thing along quickly.

      If he’s removed, a judge will usually defer to the prior judge’s rulings. Judges like a cordial and friendly atmosphere so they go along to get along like the rest of us. If a new judge comes in, he will most likely follow Stearns’s ruling but doesn’t have to.

      Stearns had to decide O’Sullivan could grant retrospective immunity because the prosecutors who are standing in front of it are doing it for the friends of Martorano and Weeks. That’s pretty much a common event. He balks at giving future immunity and ruled as a matter of law that can’t be done. However, he had little precedent to support his finding. He’s also held that the decision on whether Whitey had retroactive immunity is a legal decision so the jury will not get to hear that.

      Whitey didn’t sleep well last night.

  2. Hello Matt,

    The post above is great example of the kind of questions that are not being asked, alone answered, in all the Whitey books, and I have read many including some of the latest. I have formed somewhat of an opinion that, to the FBI and maybe other entities including the DA’s office, having the Irish organized crime element consolidated in a small group of individuals with a shared interest in devasting, or marginally disrupting (quick reference to “The Departed”) the LCN in the Boston Area and beyond, was good enough reason to partner with Bulger and Co, aside from all other sidedeals and benefits.

    1. John:
      J. Edgar Hoover never wanted to go after organized crime. He was pushed into doing it by Congress and Bobby Kennedy. Many people have pointed this out and some have suggested Hoover was friendly with some of the hoodlums or tried to come up with other sinister motives for his reluctance. The simple fact was that Hoover felt his agents would be corrupted if they started to go after organized crime. We’ve seen that play out.
      What you said is exactly what happened. It was accepted at all levels of the FBI to focus on the Mafia and give anyone who would help them a pass including Flemmi and Whitey who were as bad as the Mafia. People justify this by saying Whitey and Stevie were only local killers while the Mafia was a nationwide organization. I don’t suppose it makes a difference to the person killed or his family whether the person pulling the bullet was Irish or Italian. What happened was to get some organized crime groups FBI agents enlisted the services of other organized crime groups. The result was, as Hoover feared, the FBI agents became corrupt.

      1. Didn’t the U.S. government’s working relationship with the mafia begin during WWII when the mafia was helpful to the U.S. within the shipping industry/docks because Italy was our foe at that time?

        1. Jan:
          I think you are right. It feared the Mafia might have a leaning toward our enemy Italy so it wanted to bring it into our tent. I read something like that in one of the books on Hoover. One thing about the Italians though, they were and are very patriotic, more so than most other ethnic groups or at least it seems to me, so our government shouldn’t have feared that. Some of our longshoremen unions were pro-Soviet and when Germany and the Commies were allies a great fear arose that the war effort would be interrupted in our ports. What it really needed was to insure that didn’t happen so it turned to another strong force On
          The Waterfront which was the Mafia. When the love fest between the Nazis and Commies petered out, the need was less but the relationship was maintained. That also may account for Hoover’s ambivalence toward the Mafia since their bottom line was a strong America.

      2. Matt: What I was aiming at was, aside from Hoover’s prophetic views on the development and maintaining of relationships betweens agents and career criminals, the FBI (Hoover)seemed to be attuned to the pulse of public perception and influence at various times. Similar to a degree to the “Public Enemies” of the twenties and thirties, LCN had grown to prominence within the media with the film Godfather leading the way, while also amassing unprecedented national power within the underworld, in part due to the lack of effort during Hoover’s protracted tenure. “The Family” as you refer to them in your book, had to take action to avoid becoming embarrassed by their presence. The Irish gangsters must have heavily outnumbered the italians in the Boston area during the years this saga takes place. I would think that having reasonable, or at least somewhat reasonable, control, with information being a key component on any operational aspects, of a large group of criminals in the same area as the target group, that may not only distract the media, and public perception, with their sometimes “slapstick” gangland warfare, but also “embarrass the family” on their quest to rid the country of LCN. As brilliant the idea of the FBI is, and may I add all the dedicated agents, cutting edge science (to include behavioral) and most of who comprises the org, it seems to me that some of Hoover’s deepest character flaws still show greatly. I think that Whitey was a good point man for them; and for agents like Connolly and Morris, it was hard to walk the ambiguous tightrope that Flemmi and Whitey had played a part in expertly crafting. That was an old hat for Flemmi and Whitey was a fast learner.

        1. John:
          At least one quarter of the FBI under Hoover was devoted to public relations so J. Edgar certainly had the pulse of the Republic. It did become clear to him that after the Apalachin meeting in 1957 he couldn’t deny the existence of the nationwide syndicate. (An earlier post reminded me that Hoover very likely had dealings with the Mafia during WWII.) Joe Valachi in 1963 cemented the idea of the Mafia but the FBI had jumped on it before Valachi — I read of them having a high level Mafia informant in New York City prior to Valachi’s testimony.
          The FBI Family around the beginning of the 1960s had decided to go after the Mafia because, as you not, it had to weigh the embarrassment of not doing so against the likelihood some of its agents would be corrupted. From March 6, 1962 to July 12,1965 the FBI had an electronic bug in Raymond Patriaca’s office. The FBI knew his whole operation especially what was going on in Boston. It believed there were good reason for it to recruit a person like Flemmi to become an informant because the Irish gangsters, the few that were left after the McLaughlin/McLean war of the ’60s, seemed to be more benign compared to Angiulo.
          The Family has done wonderful things for America especially when it came to protecting us from foreign enemies and continually pushed forensic science forward. It is mostly composed of agents of high moral character who work reasonably hard trying to do the right thing but the environment of protection and secrecy and suspicion of others prevents it from being truly great. Hoover was a good American who saw things from his narrow perspective but ruled with an iron hand and destroyed any agent who would bring embarrassment onto the Family. He died on May 1, 1972 — I wonder had he been around when this stuff started to percolate in Boston how long he would have tolerated it.
          Flemmi, as you suggest was a hardened man with combat experience with a long history of dealing with the FBI. Whitey learned fast and well. What really happened in this whole episode is Connolly and Morris were amateurs playing up against highly skilled professionals. Advantage: the gangsters.

  3. “More things have to be examined before a definite conclusion can be reached.” I associate with this quoted statement. But, there are things that we do know now. Is is evident that whatever the alledged ’cause, that allegedly granted Whitey immunity in its employment, it was one that corrupted certain agents of the government. And, if Whitey was recruited back in the 70’s, we know that at that time there was an administration that was willing to use its powers for personal gains, and certain trends have continued from that point forward. The Too Big to Fail banks come to mind. Privatizing profits and socializing liabilities have been a constant theme that include the 2008 bailouts. Whitey Bulger may not be the only guy who has paid off government agents for his own personal gain. Or, conversely, like John Iuele, to have been paid to be a covert operator for those who seek to corrupt the rule of law.

    If Whitey was recruited as a covert operative to further the personal gains of those in power, both in government and private industry, it would fit with many of the facts that you have been reporting. As I have already stated many years ago Euripedes asked all these same questions: Where do we go for justice when the in justice of power is our destruction?

    The ultimate ’cause’ in this case appears to be ‘corruption of the rule of law and the pact that we citizens made with our Republic. All agents of the corruption should be on trial in US V Bulger, not just one side.

    1. Jean:
      Well said. People expected more officials to be charged but after Connolly everything was put to bed. No one in power was charged. It’s the recent history we live with that the SEC Chairman was embarrassed last week when asked what banks have been prosecuted since the bank collapse. All we can do is to air our opinions while it is still permissible to do so.

  4. This analogy doesn’t work for me. Ireland’s fight for political freedom due to British oppression doesn’t equate for me with a local organized crime figure whose primary motivation was monetary. In order to be an informant in organized crime circles, one must first be a criminal, Bulger was a criminal, therefore, it is possible that he was an informant. Bulger was a criminal orior to his involvement in the prisoner mk-ultra studies. Informants in Ireland were of a different breed, primarily politically motivated, just as the IRA fought for political prisoner status when they were incarcerated. Although Bulger did get involved in gun running in support of the IRA, it wasn’t his sole or primary purpose for engaging in the things he did.

    1. Jan:
      Agree totally. Maybe I was not as clear as I should have been. I do not suggest Whitey is on the level of people fighting for political causes. He is a criminal, as you point out,and his goal was to make money by illegal means.
      I’m suggesting that being Irish he had to know that one of the worst things one could be was an informant. He would therefore want to rationalize that he was not one. Therefore, he would define what he had done with respect to giving information so that he could justify to himself having done it and not think that he was an informant even thought he may have been one. Whether he was or not I’ll get into that a little later. For now I want to assume that he wasn’t so I can figure out how O’Sullivan would have made a deal with him if he wasn’t giving information.

      1. Yes, it is interesting and effective to take the position that he was not an informant to facilitate an in depth critical analysis of what the defense may posit and to develop a sense of clarity that perhaps wouldn’t be as readily realized when one steadfastly takes the prosecutors position. I believe the prosecutors will steadfastly insist he was an informant with Connolly being primarily or even solely the responsible rogue agent, due to the fact that if O’Sullivan did create some other creative and debatable relationship with Bulger, the U.S. Attorneys office will be more definitively on the hook along with the FBI and others. I also explore both sides of an issue to create more clarity….who knows what other realizations will become more apparent in such exploration. I recall another case where the father of the murdered victims (daughter & 2 granddaughters) thought his son in law was NOT the perpetrator in their murders till he started to write a book, where upon a closer, continued look at the facts during his writing process caused him to realize his son-in-law was in fact the murderer. (The Jeffrey MacDonald court martial)

        1. Jan:
          I think what you suggest is how the prosecutors will handle the case. They cannot think outside the box.For the purposes of their case, it seems they’d be better off arguing he wasn’t an informant then they could dismiss the idea that O’Sullivan had a need to deal with him. But when it comes down to it from the prosecutors point of view whether he was an informant or not doesn’t make a difference. This is a murder case. If they’d focus on the big picture and stop all the trivial tit for tat they’d recognize no jury is going to give anyone, even someone with a signed and sworn presidential pardon, a pass on 19 murders. Some of them yea, but not all of them.
          As far as any one being on the hook, it’s hard to expect to hold prosecutors responsible for anything since they are the ones who will make that decision. No one in an important position is going to do anything to undermine the prosecution of Whitey and after he is convicted, the books having already been written, the matter will slowly fade away.
          There have been other instances of what you speak aside from MacDonald. I think someone set out to write a book to exonerated Alger Hiss or the Rosenthals and the more he dug into the material the more he became convinced of their guilt much to the dismay of those who urged him to undertake the project. I’ve got to say for myself the more I have studied this the more I see that the usual line which I accepted is wrong. That is because the initial (and continuing) stories were told by people who knew the conclusion they wanted to arrive at. When you tie yourself into a conclusion before you examine all the facts you are sure to be wrong.

          1. First, I’m suggesting how those on the periphery might analyze the case, including myself, by actively exploring both the defense and prosecutorial stance. prosecutors have taken the stance that he was an informant but that Connolly overstepped acceptable boundaries on his usage of Bulger as an informant by allowing him to get away with murder and by being an accomplice to murder himself (himself being Connolly) and by tipping Bulger off when Bulger consequently had the time to successfully go on the lam. If Bulger asserts that Connolly was lawful in allowing this due to an arrangement with the U.S. attorneys office; arguably others from the U,S. attorneys office, etc. should have faced prosecution also – hence Stearns refutes such defense in order to protect his own. If it’s one side vs. the other, other Connolly and company deserve incarceration OR Bulger. Some people might argue that all involved should be incarcerated….and perhaps if they hadn’t been killed, this would include some of the ‘victims’.

      2. I should add that MacDonald was tried and convicted in civilian court years after being honorably discharged subsequent to the U.S. military (UCMJ) dropping the case against him. My main point – it can be beneficial to entertain a particular stance on an issue whether one confidently believes it or not because other facts can unexpectedly come into fruition. Very interesting that MacDonald declares his innocense to this day, often…..convicted, sentenced and guilty parties eventually admit their guilt in an effort to be paroled.

        1. Jan:
          I read recently the MacDonald again had request for a new trial turned down. He probably could have been out of prison by now if he’d admit that he did it. Gerald Amirault in the Fells Acre travesty would never admit his guilt and spent many extra years in prison because of it. it has to be tempting to admit being guilty even if you weren’t if the difference is getting free or being held for decades longer. I’ve gone back and forth on whether MacDonald is guilty and have promised myself to read more about it.

          1. Yes, I can’t say with certainty whether MacDonald is guilty or not, however, the many years for which he has maintained his innocence would cause me to consider his stance. I do recall another case in which the, I believe it was 3, men that were released not too long ago on the alleged satanical murders of young boy(s) in the mid-west after celebrities got involved in aiding in the public attention brought to the case and the revelation of a possible miscarriage of justice – I believe the defendants were allowed to or had to verse their statements that were part of their release agreement in such a way that didn’t fully absolve them but did guarantee their freedom…I’m trying to recall if this was part of the release arrangement that kept the authorities involved from being civilly charged themselves. This, to me is another example of authorities primary interests being the protection of fellow authorities from corruption charges, negligence or human error.

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