The attorney for James "Whitey" Bulger says everything you think you know about Bulger is wrong. J.W. Carney turned the story of Bulger's notorious life upside down Wednesday by declaring that Bulger was never an FBI informant.
The most entertaining part of the day came outside the courthouse after a hearing.
"James Bulger has never said he was an informant," Carney said. "Attorney Hank Brennan and I have never once said that James Bulger was an informant."
Ramrod straight and owlish, Carney was leading reporters down a new path.
Inside the courthouse the hearing had been dry. Carney had argued that Bulger should be able to tell jurors at his trial that he had been granted immunity for all his crimes.
"Mr. Bulger is resting on our U.S. Constitution when he says he will tell jurors the entire scope of the immunity that he received," Carney said.
The government contends the defense argument that Bulger had immunity, that someone had the authority to authorize Bulger to murder people, is ludicrous.
So far, Bulger and his attorney have offered no evidence.
Federal prosecutor Jeremiah O'Sullivan, the man Bulger says granted him immunity, spoke before Congress in 2002"
I state categorically and unequivocally that although I was made aware of the status of Bulger and [Stephen] Flemmi as FBI informants in the late 1970s, I never authorized them to commit any crimes and have no knowledge of any such authorization.
O'Sullivan has been dead for four years.
John Connolly, the FBI handler for the top-echelon secret informants Bulger and Flemmi who was convicted in 2002 on corruption charges, said before he was indicted that Bulger and Flemmi "were long-term sources of the FBI."
And the deal Bulger got in return, Connolly told WGBH-TV in 1998, was limited immunity.
"They had the right to conduct a gambling and a loan sharking business and collect rent from bookmakers with no violence and that decision was made by Jeremiah T. O'Sullivan, the head of the Strike Force," Connolly said.
Now back to Carney outside the courthouse.
"James Bulger was never an informant to the FBI or anybody else at any time," he said.
When asked what his basis would be for the existence of an immunity agreement if Bulger was not an informant, Carney said they would present the answer when the trial starts in June.
"Oh, it's going to get better," said Bulger's former mob lieutenant Kevin Weeks. "Oh yeah, I can't wait for him to take the stand."
Weeks, who will be testifying against Bulger, laughed when he heard Bulger's lawyer claimed he was not an informant.
"He was never an informant and the government gave him carte blanche in return and they got nothing? It doesn't work like that," Weeks said.
Reputation was everything to Bulger, Week says, and now he figures Bulger is trying to rehabilitate the old reputation.
As Bulger told his brother Jackie in a recorded conversation in jail last year, "I never gave them [expletive] information. Nothing, nothing."
This program aired on February 14, 2013.