Whitey: The Joe Berlinger Film: Whitey the Informant – What Was His Price?

2015 11 29_3162Freddy Wyshak the prosecutor of Whitey moaned that Whitey doesn’t mind being called a murderer or a drug dealer but he doesn’t want to be called an informer because from where he came from in Southie that’s the worst thing you can be. He said it was preposterous to think that Whitey was not an informant. It seemed Freddy would have preferred Whitey be called an informant than a murderer. He wanted to grind his heel into Whitey’s face crushing him into believing there was nothing that gave his life value.

Steve Davis had another view on the subject of informants. It seemed he believed Whitey would not care one way or the other if he were a rat.  He said the state of Massachusetts was full of rats comparing it to an infested rat hole. He said the Irish mob – “every one of them” – was stumbling over each other to be rats. He cleverly pointed to the entrance to the federal courthouse in Boston saying: “look at the federal courthouse entrance – doesn’t it look like a mouse hole.” It did. I’ll probably never walk through it again without thinking that.

John Red Shea from Southie wrote a book: Rat Bastards: The South Boston Irish Mobster Who Took the Rap When Everyone Else Ran.The gist of his book is that when he was arrested in a sweep of drug dealers in South Boston there was a rush to the prosecutor’s office to make a deal. It did not seem with so many of them it was the worst thing to be.

Whitey’s brother Billy wrote a book While The Music Lasts. He wrote that the Irish kids he hung around with “loathed informers. It wasn’t a conspiratorial thing – our folklore bled with the names of informers who had sold out their brethren to hangmen and worse in the lands of our ancestors.” True, we believed that but sometimes some justified deviating from the belief when the gain merited it.

Then there was the novel titled The Informer. It takes place in the aftermath of the Irish Civil War and tells of Gypo Nolan who informs on a wanted comrade. I tells a lot about the Irish. Sure the informer was the bane to Ireland independence but it seemed as much as they were hated there were plenty of them around.

I guess it could be summed up – that Wyshak is right that the Irish of Southie and elsewhere else hated informers, we called them squealers as kids, but we had plenty of them in our midst which means the distaste to which they were held did not stop a person from becoming one.

The Boston Globe’s Kevin Cullen agreed Whitey did not want to  be known as an informant and its Shelley Murphy said Bulger’s role as an informant was central to the trial. There is little doubt in their minds that is what he was.

Reading all the opinions I am reminded of an old story where the Black and Tan guard said to the Irish prisoner, “will you give me the name of the guy who did it with you if I give you a million pounds.” The prisoner thinks for a second and responds, “absolutely.” The guard then said, “what if I offer you a couple of pence?” The prisoner gets indignant and replies, “who do you think I am? Two pence!” The guard returned, “we’ve already established that. We’re now just haggling over the price.” 

We have yet to establish if Whitey is an informant. If he is we have to decide what was his price to become one. We’ve seen that many of the people here had his price. For a guy like Kevin Weeks it was doing as little time in prison as possible; for Martorano doing a dozen years for 20 murders; for Flemmi keeping his property, saving his life, and sneaking off into a cozy location; for Salemme, not doing more time.

In the documentary the question is posed to Whitey in a call between him and his lawyer Carney. He would say he was never an informant. He offered the following as proof. He took many beatings in police stations “and never cracked,” as a bank robber he pleaded guilty to free a girl he was with and got 20 years as a first offender; in prison he was part of an escape plot, Another guy gave up his name and when he was confronted he said “I don’t know what your talking about – I spent months in the hole.” He was then shipped out to Alcatraz. He went on; “I never, never, never cracked and the Boston FBI, no way. That John Connolly, a Southie guy, Irish Catholic like myself . .  if I ever hear anything I’ll tip you off give you a head up – all right John I’ll see you – I appreciate it you can let me know, I appreciate it.”  

One way to find out where the truth lies is to see if we can determine if Whitey had a price that could buy his cooperation.

To do this we have to go back to the time when Whitey was first opened up as an informant on May 13, 1975. Later he became a Top Echelon Informant on February 4, 1976. What could have induced him to become one?

Black Mass said John Connolly the FBI agent told them he became one in exchange for Connolly’s promise to protect him from the Mafia if in exchange he gave the FBI information against the Mafia. That made no sense. Whitey knew nothing about the Mafia in 1975.

18 thoughts on “Whitey: The Joe Berlinger Film: Whitey the Informant – What Was His Price?

  1. Matt :
    Correspondent RB is OK . Promoted out of Oklahoma office to FBI HQ in 2000 if same Agent. His reputation is unblemished ; his ties and loyalty to John are of long duration, intensity, and … suffering. I accept as true his account therefore of Senior’s collar by Connolly though with a caveat as to how reconstructed memory serves us … one way or another … regarding our ” recollection. ” of events. What RB glosses is the L Street Connection between Senior and John. Fan boy bs and idolatry aside, there is little doubt here that John knew Frank Salemme Sr. well and was fully cognizant therefore of who Frank Salemme was in all of his … Complexity 🙂 … There is a type almost of incestuous intensity to the Southie Mob hookups and relationships; John was born in those waters, swam comfortably and indeed expertly in them, and was swarmed by fellow sharks in a blood frenzy, basically. OK and Third Ave. Try to hold that corner down Agent Richard Baker . Hat Off To You !!!

  2. I think Flemmi learned from Wimpy how to be a real sneaky rat in Roxbury and Bulger took advantage of John Connolly knowing he was a fan boy and idolized him. Connolly and Morris fudged paperwork to make it appear legit. They used the Anguilo angle to keep them on the street even though Stevie was the only one with real knowledge LCN. It is all a twisted knotted tale of lying and more lying, to the point of not knowing where to even begin with all the ratting and murdering.

    1. Doubting:

      You are getting ahead of the curve. Keep in mind the tap on Gerry and Larry could have been done without any information from Whitey or Stevie. The affidavit was already done and the paper work prepared when Morris told the agent under him to add information from Stevie and Whitey into it.

      If Flemmi was in combat in Korea, I’d suggest that is where he learned to take care of himself first. Being in the infantry in combat does a lot of things to a person which those of us who have not done so are unable to understand.

      Bulger did use Connolly. Connolly did have some sort of crush on him. The tale is not as twisted as some would have us think as long as we don’t listen to those who have written about it and have axes to grind.

      1. Matt- Does it all really begin and end with fabricated/falsified paperwork of their importance? I just feel if Morris/Connolly didn’t have the ability to just blatently lie and manipulate information, this would be alot easier to untangle.

        If Stevie was in live combat in Korea, is it possible that made him a emotionless efficient killer? He never used the PTSD defense, But i often wondered just what he brought home with him mentally speaking and perfecting his murderous attributes. It is so obvious to me Fleemi killed the females in this case, just like it so obvious that they buried people in Pat Nee’s basement.

        1. Both of Whitey’s girlfriends are alive and the mother of is child aswell. Theresa Stanley was never killed and she knew the deal, that has to count for something in weighing the evidence of the female victims. The young girls who were killed all were involved with either leaving Steveie or exposing him for his sadistic predatorial sins, they were all his making and ending in my opinion. Bulger’s girls all lived, Flemmi we can’t say the same.

          1. Doubting:

            You make good points. Bulger’s girls knew as much about his involvement with Flemmi and others as Debbie Davis did. None of them were in any way injured. Putting it like you did makes it clear why it was so unlikely Bulger was involved in Flemmi’s murders.

        2. Doubting:

          Good question. It is more than that. It begins with the FBI and Hoover’s creation of that outfit and the way in which it operates without oversight. I’ve pointed out before that the only office investigated was the Boston office and that only in a small part. We have 55 other offices and countless resident agencies whose files are never looked at. Think of the dozens if not hundreds of FBI agents that came through Boston and knew that Whitey and Stevie were informants. No one raised an eyebrow except perhaps Fitzpatrick, if he can be believed.

          Keep in mind the FBI gave little goodie-goodie points to guys with informants. Informants were a way to get out of the stuffy offices and to gain a little freedom. The FBI allowed the informality of setting up files on informants without telling them; or letting agents put whatever they wanted into the files. This was not just Connolly and Morris but every other agent. We really do not know what was fabricated or not. Connolly wrote that Whitey told him the Charlestown mob murdered Halloran. We all know that is false but how do we know that Whitey didn’t tell Connolly that. The agent does not have to verify what the informant says but merely put into the file the conversation; that also is an absurd manner of handling things.

          Stevie if he saw combat in Korea may have had some type of psychological illness. But who knows if he really saw combat. I’ve never read of him getting any military decorations. He might have done all his service back at headquarters far from the front and the stories he came back with are lies just like the others he told all during his life. The man is an emotionless killer but until I knew he actually saw combat, which does change a person in more ways than we can imagine, I would not want to attribute his inhumanity to it. As for the women, if you didn’t want them murdered you wouldn’t be pulling out their teeth.

  3. Matt: Didn’t Bulger give up his fellow bank robbers in the 1950s? Looks to me like a fairly early start on a long career as a dangerous criminal — and a rat. As for the stationhouse beatings, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Bulger lent the Boston police a hand every now and then.

    We’ve been tossed a lot of Blarney about the special place of infamy an informer holds in Irish culture. I can only say that I don’t think the Irish to be any more or less vulnerable to becoming rats than members of any other ethnic or racial group.

    Snitches are despised and hated by convicts, but from what I’ve read and been told, prisons are swarming with snitches. This is perfectly logical. What isn’t logical is the belief that criminals who ruthlessly rob and rape suddenly develop a stern moral code when it comes to informing. If informing can help them, they’ll do it .. in a heartbeat.

    1. Dan:

      Uncertain about what happened after he was arrested in the Fifties. The guy who was in the robbery with him in the mid West had already turned on Whitey and fingered him in that robbery. Not only that he fingered the young woman Whitey was working with. She was part of the lookout team. She also knew what had happened in the other robberies in which Whitey was involved.

      So when Whitey was grabbed the FBI squeezed him telling him that unless he pleaded guilty they were going to charge the girl. It is clear that Whitey made a deal that he would plead and the girl would not be prosecuted. What shows he didn’t do more was that he had no record and got 20 years. That’s not the type of sentence a guy who is assisting gets.

      The FBI must also have squeezed the girl for the information which led to the arrest of the other people who were in the robberies in this area. If the only way they could have learned of the other guys was through Whitey I would agree with you; but since the guy in the mid West was cooperating and Whitey’s girl was cooperating and normal investigative procedures could also have come into play then you can’t say he gave up the other robbers.

      There is no evidence Whitey gave up anyone else when he was young. You can believe what you want but I like to see something behind it. By the way back then the Boston cops whacked all the young guys around so it was something you expected if you got arrested. They did in in part thinking they could knock some sense into a kids head and deter him from committing crimes. It did work on some kids who were taken down a lonely spot by a couple of cops and given a good beating. The cops were trying to be helpful in their special way hoping to deter the kids from a life of crime and not looking for information.

      You heard the expression about someone protesting too much. The Irish may be more vulnerable to having rats among them than other groups.

      Agree, the prisons and streets are full of snitches and as they say there is no trust among criminal who all act for their own benefit. Whitey’s track record shows when in prison he was not a snitch. If not there, why would he be out on the street.

      1. Hi Matt,
        It sounds to me like Bulger squealed on everyone in sight back in the 50s, including his girlfriend. “Bulger, after his apprehension, cooperated with this bureau,” read a 1956 FBI report. Bulger gave up his accomplices in two bank robberies that remained unsolved. The South Boston gangster made what were described by the FBI as “oral admissions,” since he didn’t want anything in writing. Now, I hate to say it, but these just don’t sound like the words and actions of a standup guy. It’s true that Bulger wanted to help his girlfriend, Jacqui McAuliffe, but Jacqui did something for him too. She provided the courtroom testimony against Bulger’s bank robbing pals. That enabled Bulger to remain in the shadows. It was only many decades later that one of these bank robbers learned of Whitey’s real role .

        Have a look at this story: http://www.wbur.org/2012/05/30/bulger-i

        Now, it’s true that Bulger got 20 years, but this doesn’t prove he didn’t cooperate. He did. Bank robbery was severely punished, then and now. And Whitey was the gunman in these robberies, the fellow who was sticking a revolver into the ribs of honest citizens. Moreover, it was Bulger’s girlfriend who did the heavy lifting by appearing in open court and offering sworn testimony.

        Was Bulger any better before or after his days as a bank robber? His lengthy stint as an informer for John Connolly suggests to me that like any degenerate criminal, Bulger would do what’s best for himself. That includes playing the rat when convenient.

        By the way, Catherine Greig is still sitting in jail. Bulger has claimed that he would have pleaded guilty to all the charges against him if the charges against Grieg were dropped. What Bulger didn’t offer to do was to cooperate with the government. That would have undercut his claim that he wasn’t an informer. So, in the end, Bulger’s concern for his reputation trumped his supposed concern for his longtime girlfriend. Ain’t love grand.

  4. Matt
    You bring up some very vaild and well thought out points. The main point though that I wrestle with is WHy would Bulger get ALL the perks of being an informant if he wasnt one? Its possible a fake informant file was opened on him by Connolly , Morris, etc. Bulger got ALL the perks that Steve Flemmi did, no? If Bulger wasnt an informant then the only conclusion I can draw is that Bulger did in fact pay for protection to Connolly and Morris which would be very sinister and corrupt.

    Also, the amount of money and wine that Morris admits to taking seems like chump change in comparison to the millions that Bulger earned. I wonder what would have happened if Bulger would have been caught first BEFORE Martorano, Weeks, and Flemmi. He may have turned states witness against them but we will never know that since he was caught last and had nothing to give the governement. Ironically, Bulger would have been better off flipping on Weeks and Flemmi as he had experience with being locked up while the other 2 were never in prison.

    1. Jerome:

      You’ll get some of your questions answered as the series goes on. Bulger could never have made a deal unless he was willing to give up his brother Billy who was the real target.

  5. @Mr.Flintwitch … MOB WAR IN BEANTOWN by Alan R.May found @ http://www.alanrmay.com ( remember middle initial included…. delineates the connections and answers your questions to Matt; thus freeing up our bright boy’s nimble wit to entertain us with his … theorizing … as opposed to recounting history already familiar.

  6. Hi Matt and thanks for an interesting article on your blog.

    Do you think that Bulger and Flemmi informed on Howie Winter and their Winter Hill partners to the FBI?

    What is your understanding of the race fixing scam that was committed by Howie Winter and his cohorts?

    Was Disarro close to Salemme and Flemmi?

    1. David:

      Don’t know about Disario. They did not have to dime out Howie since he was doing 18 – 20; did they jam him into that case — don’t think so. There were civilian witnesses that came forward who they were trying to extort. Legend had it that they warned him not to get involved with the matters that brought about the extortion. Race fixing scam was Fat Tony Ciulla who was fixing horse races up and down the East Coast and when jammed in making a deal with the federals; he testified first in New Jersey naming Howie, McDonald, Sims, Martorano, Whitey and Stevie and spelling out their roles even though they were not indicted in New Jersey. Then the show came to the Boston federal court but Jeremiah O’Sullivan cut Whitey and Stevie out of the indictments at the request of Connolly and Morris. By that time Howie was already serving time.

  7. The more they talked of their virtue, the faster we counted the spoons … Ralph Waldo Emerson … Enough of THE MANTIC SEMANTIC ” INFORMER ” FBI SIDESHOW … There is plenty of violated oath, personal and official, to go around between mobsters and agents. FBI cannot take a moral high ground until truth is revealed concerning their … antics. As to Stevie Davis’ jeremiads concerning RATS , and his contention WHITEY was one, the casting of one eye on that silvery haired bewhiskered little Davis fella’ lacking just a plaid waistcoat to complete his Alice In Wonderland ensemble, suffices to explain. 🙂

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