Getting Back To The Reexamination of Whitey Bulger

A Glance Backwards At Prior Reexaminations

I’ve suggested so far based on the evidence I could find that some of the important things that have been written about Whitey’s life are wrong. Here are some of  what I suggest happened that contradicts the stories put out by the media authors.

They have it when Whitey he got out of prison he had a no-show job as a courthouse custodian that his brother Billy got for him. I know a person who went on to a distinguished legal career who had to work as a custodian to support his family while going to law school. He worked nights with Whitey. He said he and Whitey worked side by side doing their job. He has mentioned this from the time they first worked together.

The legitimate life didn’t suit Whitey. He got involved as an enforcer with the Killeen gang of bookies and loan sharks. A younger South Boston group the Mullens wanted in on the action. A little dust-up began between the two groups in Southie.

The media has it Whitey became an informant in 1971. Here’s what happened. FBI Agent Dennis Condon tried to bring Whitey on board as an informant using the pitch: “your life’s in danger, we can help you out.” Condon notified FBI headquarters of his hopes in two memos. Headquarters under the director’s signature wrote back asking Condon to keep it promptly advised of his contacts with Bulger.

An example of the media lies and distortions is how Howie Carr made up a more sinister story of this routine matter. Without mentioning Condon’s earlier memos he writes: “The directive to the Boston FBI office to reach out to Whitey came directly from J. Edgar Hoover himself. . . . Whitey was strictly a small-timer, with no contacts in the Mafia. It seems unlikely Hoover would have singled him out . . . unless perhaps he was doing a favor for the now retired [Speaker John] McCormick and some of his most loyal constituents, namely the Bulgers.”

If what Howie Carr made up had any connection to reality Whitey would have become an informant for according to Carr he was asking to become one. However Whitey never bit on Condon’s hook. Within four months Condon threw in the towel.

The South Boston battle continued. It would take three lives: two of the Killeens and the brother of one of the Mullens. Whitey finding himself on the losing end looked for a way out. John Martorano had it he approached him; Pat Nee, a Mullen, had it he approached Joe Russo a top Mafia guy seeking help. However it happened Howie Winter in late fall 1972 arranged for a peace meeting between Whitey and the Mullens at a sit down at Chandler’s restaurant in the South End (not to be confused with South Boston).

A truce was established. The Mullens weren’t too happy having their final takeover delayed. But they went along probably because the bigger gangster groups under Howie Winter and Gerry Angiulo, the latter the Mafia underboss, backed it. Warring groups attract attention which the gangsters like to avoid.

Up to that point Whitey had been a Southie hoodlum rarely venturing over any of its bridges into foreign lands. As Carr correctly said he was a small timer. He had fired weapons at some guys but never killed anyone. Knowing of the Mullens displeasure which made Southie a wee bit treacherous, he started to hang around with Howie Winter’s group in Somerville for protection. This would eventually be called the Winter Hill Group because its hangout was in a garage in the Winter Hill section of Somerville.

That group consisted of two smaller groups who were no strangers to murdering people having all participated in the Irish gang wars: the remnants of a Roxbury gang and Howie Winter’s gang. The Roxbury gang was originally composed of Frank Salemme, John and James Martorano, Stevie and Vincent (Jimmy) Flemmi among others. At the time when Whitey joined only the Martorano brothers were around. The other group was made up of Joe McDonald, Jimmy Sims, Howie Winter and a handful of others.

Whitey was the odd man out. He’d never fit in tight with either of those groups. It would not be until Steve Flemmi returned in May 1974 that he found a soul mate. Whitey was feared, respected and considered strange. To his face, everyone behaved nicely; behind his back they made fun of his peccadilloes. These guys were all heavy drinkers; Whitey wasn’t. He was part of the group but not part of it, biding his time and using his association with it for protection.

Shortly after he went over to Somerville John Martorano and Howie Winter agreed to do some murders for Gerry Angiulo who wanted people he felt were threatening him eliminated. Martorano has Whitey driving a crash car during the murders. I’ve suggested that’s unlikely because he was too new to the gang to be trusted and that Martorano to get his gold studded deal was encouraged to implicate Whitey in as many murders as he could.

The 30th article in my reexamination of Whitey was the last one written. In that I debunked the media suggestion that FBI Agent John Connolly was brought back from New York to the Boston office for the purpose of handling Stevie or Whitey. That was in 1973. Whitey was still pretty much a low-level tough guy and Stevie Flemmi was on the lam from a murder charge and the charges relating to the time he and Salemme set a bomb in Attorney John Fitzgerald’s car. I’ll go on with the 31st installment tomorrow.



  1. I read an article yesterday in “The Champion,” the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ magazine, and the last remaining winning argument for Carney hit me like a ton of bricks- jury nullification.

    Don’t scoff just yet. Jury nullification is permissible under our constitution, and certainly not as limited as commentators of U.S. v. Sparf, whom clearly haven’t read it, will lead you to believe.

    Jury nullification is storied in our nation. Abolitionist northern juries refused to convict/render verdicts sending slaves back to the south. There is, arguably, recent precedent. Attorney Cochran toed the line well, got in his closing argument advocating a verdict against the police, not in judgment of his client. That is where Carney should play ball. Bring up every miniscule white lie, inconsistency, devious act the FBI/US Attorney’s Office did during these years and ask the jury to judge that conduct with a symbolic vote.

    As Chief Justice Jay eloquently instructed in Georgia v. Brailsford (1794) “It may not be amiss, here, Gentlemen, to remind you of the good old rule, that on questions of fact, it is the province of the jury, on questions of law, it is the province of the court to decide. But it must be observed that by the same law, which recognizes this reasonable distribution of jurisdiction, you have nevertheless a right to take upon yourselves to judge of both, and to determine the law as well as the fact in controversy. On this, and on every other occasion, however, we have no doubt, you will pay that respect, which is due to the opinion of the court: For, as on the one hand, it is presumed, that juries are the best judges of facts; it is, on the other hand, presumbable, that the court are the best judges of the law. But still both objects are lawfully, within your power of decision.”

    Carney must indict and convict the US Attorney’s Office, the FBI, and the U.S. Government.

    • Jim:
      Brilliant analysis. It is really all Carney has left now that the immunity issue may not go to the jury. It does suggest to me that if he uses this course then Whitey won’t testify. Whitey has a story to tell but he’d do better getting it out without having the prosecutors and media muddling it up.

      If Whitey testifies as to the alleged immunity, Stearns will instruct the jury to disregard it. It may or may not do that but it seems to me it becomes a side argument after reading your comment. Why muddy the waters when the issue here is really the outrageous government conduct in bringing forth this team of murderers who have bragged about their murders and have gotten impossible to imagine deals to testify against another guy.

      I don’t scoff at your suggestion at all. It made me think of what four different juries in New York City did when confronted with a similar situation and the defendants were Mafia guys. I read about it in Ralph Ranalli’s book. I’ll quote him:

      “Hearing a “not guilty” verdict in her husband’s December 1994 murder case, Marguerite Cutolo . . . threw her hands together in a gesture of pray and thanks directed in part to the jury . . . but mostly heavenward. “Thank you, Jesus! Oh, St. Jude. Thank Jude!” she cried invoking the Catholic patron saint of hopeless causes. She might have also thanked Colombo crime family captain Gregory Scarps, Sr. . . . Cutolo, like Scarpa, was a captain in the Colombo family . . . Cutolo and six henchmen had just been acquitted on murder and murder conspiracy charges. . . . [Scarpa’s] double life as an ambitious underworld killer and Top Echelon informant for the FBI had given Cutolo a fighting chance to beat the charges.”

      Cutolo’s attorney said the reason the jury acquitted was it knew the government had this informant who it knew was killing people. Aside from Cutolo, sixteen other Mafia wise guys were also acquitted before four separate juries. Here the jury will find out Flemmi the main government informant murdered his young girlfriend and a young woman he had been molesting since childhood and he’s living in some picnic-type federal prison being coddled by the government. If that doesn’t make them in the mood to vomit they’ll find out that the man who actually killed most of the people who were unarmed and by shooting them in the head Martorano made this incredible deal to do an easy 12 years for 20 murders and was paid $20,000 plus for his lies. Then they’ll hear how he wrote a book bragging about murdering people and that he believes he is a good man. Surely by now they’ll all be sick to their stomachs thinking of the government getting in bed with these people. They’ll also find out Weeks who also told about his brutal life in a book got an even better deal including keeping his lottery winnings when the government changed its position when he’s probably the one who killed some of the people who were subsequently unearthed. Whitey never had a motive to kill McIntyre. He was brought to Pat Nee’s brother’s home by Nee who had a motive and he was killed there by Nee and Weeks. Weeks is throwing Whitey in to get his deal.

      The problem Whitey has is winning in Boston just gets him carted off to another state. But in those other states his case gets stronger since he’s only got to answer to one murder charge and the guy who did the murders and got the deal and bragged about it is the witness against him.

      Thanks for the input and the legal research. The story is far from over.

  2. Matt: As far as the McCormick connection is concerned, as far as I can tell by the varying opinions or so-called facts I have read, do not have much bearing on Whitey’s actual rise to power within the underworld. The Boston Globe writers have him pulling strings during Whitey’s 10 year sentence in prison; this would have proved rather embarrassing as he was far from a model inmate. Either way, whether life on the inside was made easier, or if he was given a no-show job as a janitor, the alleged influence had relatively no bearing on his success in negotiating the deadly waters he immersed himself in. That kind of pull was derived from his partnership with Flemmi, and abilities related to the subsequent seduction and manipulation of the Feds assigned to him. Was Connolly completely enthralled by his relationship to a gangster that happened to be a close sibling to one of the most powerful politicians in the state? Did Whitey play off of Connolly’s infatuation with the perception of power and desire to be amongst men that wielded it with an iron fist? I would venture to say yes to both the above questions. Dealing with guys like the Martorano brothers, it don’t matter if you know McCormick or not, if you stand out like a rat you would have been treated like one. The kind of respect Whitey demanded cannot be faked or acted, even if your a Donnie Brasco caliber agent. His reputation must have been validated at some point by the leadership of Winter Hill. It seems Winter took an instant liking to him and he’s no slouch, having never snitched or cooperated while facing serious time. Flemmi, a guy that wouldn’t hesitate to blow out the brains of someone he considered to be a threat, ended up entrusting Whitey with a secret he admitted to no one else. There are so many layers, nuance and unique circumstances that allowed or contributed to many of the events surrounding Whitey’s case, I just don’t see evidence supporting the close correlation between state politics and what was being played out in the streets.

    • John:
      John McCormack the Speaker got Connolly into the FBI because Connolly’s father was a friend or knew a friend who knew McCormack. It wasn’t a big deal. As far as helping Whitey in prison that’s doubtful. Whitey would never have ended up in Alcatraz. I’m sure there were some easy federal pens he could have gone to if McCormack assisted him because he was the Majority Leader and then the US Speaker when Whitey was in prison. If he wanted to help him there was very little he wouldn’t have been able to do for him.
      I agree with your analysis of Connolly vis-a-vis the Bulger brothers. Connolly made it a point to bring the new FBI SACs and ASACs in to see Billy Bulger when he was president of the senate. Billy a politician was always willing to oblige in giving up 20 or so minutes a week to chat with these guys. Connolly would also like to have it known that Whitey was his guy. So he was a set up for Whitey who it seemed handled him the way he wanted to.
      McCormack left the Speaker’s job in 1971 when he was 80 years of age and died when he was 89 or 90 in 1980. He was an old man when he left and would have had very limited influence during his 80s. To suggest he had something to do with Whitey is really ridiculous.
      I think you are right on point with you comment “there are so many layers, nuance and unique circumstances that allowed of contributed to many of the events surrounding Whitey’s case.” I see that every time I write about these matters and wonder at how so many people leave out the matters you focus on concerning the interrelation of the gangsters among themselves. You correctly note that’s a brutal world where the people in have little respect for the lives of others. I’ve noted that these guys survive by knowing what is going on around them. They pick up a lot more from the street than they’d ever get from other sources.
      I’m not sure if Winter ever took a liking to Whitey, though. Winter’s close friend McDonald never liked him. Winter and Whitey by the way are the only two guys alive who were stand up guys as you noted Winter “never snitched or cooperated while facing serious time.” Martorano, Flemmi, Salemme, Weeks all folded under a little pressure. I think it was more that Winter respected Whitey for his ruthlessness, toughness, and fearless— a quality everyone said he had. Having grown up in Whitey-type neighborhoods I always knew who the tough guys were, I knew how far I could go in my relationship with them and I saw what happened to people who crossed the line. Tough guys instinctively know other tough guys. That’s how you survive.
      Recall Nee who didn’t particularly like Whitey telling how Whtey walked into a Mullen stronghold by himself unarmed right after one of the Mullens was shot by one of his people. Whitey used the expression Machiavellian twice when referencing Agent John Morris and I’m sure he used it other times. He was probably familiar with Machiavelli’s book The Prince which preached the idea that it is better to be feared than loved. Whitey was feared. He demanded respect even if you didn’t like him. Perhaps Connolly too was afraid of crossing him once he developed a relationship with him.
      This whole aspect of Whitey’s life seems to have been ignored. Whitey’s power came because of who he was, not because of anything else. The problem is people don’t understand that and even if they do it doesn’t make an interesting story when you’re trying to tear someone down.

  3. dear author, what i get from your blog and the countless books and articles about whitey is this. CRIME DOES NOT REALLY PAY. by that i mean whitey talked about and planned on going on the run for decades. millions of dollars later he ended up almost a prisoner of his own apartment in santa monicas.counter all the kill or be killed years he had and i think i would rather have had a boring but sleep well at night life. even john m the murderman says at one point if you are a gangster you know at some you are going to prison. your blog goes into to very good detail about how for a lot of years whitey just scraped by. anyways thanks again for all the good information makes for interesting reading. regards,

    • Norwood:
      Your comment made me recall what I have thought and possible said a long time ago. Whitey had a night job as a custodian after he got out of prison. Had he hung on to that during these years he never would have made much money but with his discipline he might some day have become head custodian or some other high level position in the court house system. He could have bought a modest house in South Boston at some time in the ’60s or early ’70s and seen his investment go up ten fold. He’d not have become a recluse living in an apartment behind drawn curtains always worried that this might be the night someone will break down his door. Right now he’d be able to go outside and take a walk up to City Point or around Castle Island breathing in the fresh air and talking with some of the old timers who grew up in the area. In the summer he could be at the beach or having a beer at one of the parks playing some bocce ball or some other old timer game. But the essence is he would be free and that’s why crime never pays because you lose your freedom and values, even if you are not in jail. A good night sleep, a chance to see the sun set, and the right to go where one wants free of constraints is the reward for a good life. It’s what one forfeits being a criminal.