Bulger May Cooperate To 'Settle Scores'

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An exclusive James "Whitey" Bulger booking photo, obtained by WBUR
An exclusive James "Whitey" Bulger booking photo

The legal wrangling continues over whether the onetime head of the Irish mob in Boston, James “Whitey” Bulger, will get a court-appointed lawyer, as he’s requested.

For now, his attorney is Boston lawyer Peter Krupp, assigned as a public defender to the case last week. Krupp and federal prosecutors will meet Monday to try to reach an agreement, under the order of a federal judge. Then there will be a hearing on Wednesday on the issue.

It’s only after Bulger gets a permanent lawyer that he can be interrogated by authorities. And then the question will be, “Will ‘Whitey’ talk?”

WBUR’s David Boeri joined Morning Edition Monday to discuss why Bulger might or might not want to cooperate.

Steve Brown: The process of assigning a public defender that's coming up — why is this an issue?

It's an issue because the federal government protests the idea that he is filing as an indigent because they found $800,000 just last week in his apartment.

Judge Mark Wolf, who will be presiding over this case, has indicated though that since they took the $800,000, Bulger doesn't have it, and so, therefore, it would appear that he is indigent, and, as in other cases, he seemed to be favorably inclined to have him represented by a public defender.

We heard reports over the weekend that Bulger is already cooperating, he's already talking, what are we hearing about that?

That's right, he turns out to be chattier than a single guy that's just been moved into assisted living. He has been talking to everybody, apparently, sort of along the lines of, "Oh yeah, me and the missus drove down to Tijuana, to the border, we went across to a pharmacy to get my medication — you know, you don't need a prescription there — and then we came back using fake IDs."

By the way, this was known already — I tracked that down in 2000, looking for him in that area for that very reason. They would love it if he would start talking more about his 16-year vacation and where he's been and what he's seen.

Given the serious charges that he's facing at his age — he's going to be 82 this September — it seems unlikely that he'll ever walk the streets again. What might be his motivation for cooperating with authorities?

He is either going to die in a can or he's going to die on a gurney with a needle in his vein. One possibility: he avoids the death penalty, two states want him, Oklahoma and Florida, to execute him.

The federal charges don't include the death penalty, those are the states' charges.

The charges here in Massachusetts don't involve the death penalty, but they do in the states of Oklahoma and Florida, and they would like a pass at him.

But there's something else about this guy. If you saw him in court in either California or Massachusetts, this guy is alive, he's no slouch, he's standing staid in the courtroom, he looks animated. One thing that drove Whitey Bulger throughout his life was settling scores. He was all about settling scores, and if you remember the gruesome details of the murders, he loved to torture people as well.

After he went fugitive, he called John Morris, who is the corrupt FBI supervisor, over the phone and said, "If I'm going to jail, you're going to jail as well." Morris had a heart attack afterward.

Bulger loves torturing people, and the kind of torture is slow torture. He's back and I think he's intent on settling scores.

So the cooperation would be possibly to settle scores?

If there's anybody he feels betrayed by, he has the perfect opportunity right now. Those people include FBI people that he thinks did not stay loyal to him, that ratted on him, or the mobsters.

One last question about Bulger's girlfriend, Catherine Greig. She faces a charge of harboring a fugitive for being on the run with Bulger for those 16 years. She faces five years in prison if convicted. Does she have information that prosecutors might want in exchange for leniency?

The important thing here is most of the families of the victims, nobody is talking about trying to make her pay. They don't seem to hold her accountable for what happened.

There are three things that Greig can potentially offer. Certainly she can say where they've been, that would allow investigators to close the loop on all this. She may well be able to say where he stashed the money — they'd love to get more of that money to reimburse the feds for paying for his costs. And the other thing, and also perhaps most important from a criminal standpoint, she can say who helped them: which officials helped them, and which other people helped them and harbored them on their way.


This program aired on June 27, 2011.

Headshot of David Boeri

David Boeri Senior Reporter
Now retired, David Boeri was a senior reporter at WBUR.



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