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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Relatives of Whitey Bulger's victims overwhelm courtroom with emotion


A flood of emotion overwhelmed a federal courtroom here on Wednesday as the relatives of people who were killed by James "Whitey" Bulger told of their loves and their losses — and their utter contempt for the defendant.

Mr. Bulger, 84, who was convicted in August of 11 murders when he was the overlord of the Boston underworld in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s, was variously called a sociopath, a psychopath and, perhaps most searing to him, a rat.

“Shame on you, Mr. Bulger,” David Wheeler declared to the man who ordered his father’s murder. “For all your notoriety, you are a punk and you don’t even matter anymore. You’ve turned from a government-sponsored assassin to a pile of jailhouse rags.”

Many of those who spoke at the sentencing hearing were children at the time of their fathers’ deaths. Bill O’Brien Jr., whose father’s alleged murder by Mr. Bulger was deemed by the jury “not proved,” lamented the absence of the man who was killed four days before he was born.

“I think of the things he missed out on in my life,” he said, like playing catch and buying his son his first glove. At baseball games, he said, “I saw all those other fathers with their sons, and me just standing there, wishing I had someone cheering me on, wishing I had someone adjusting my baseball cap.”

Patricia Donahue, whose husband, Michael, was an innocent bystander when he was gunned down, was a wife with a young family. She shared the moments she treasures, like the Christmas Eves when her husband would assemble the bicycles for their three boys — only to see in the morning that he put the wrong handlebars on the wrong bikes. He fancied himself a good cook, but half the time, she said, “you didn’t know what you were eating.”

“We were a happy, loving, young family with hopes and dreams, and he was the soul of our family,” she said. “Then on May 11, 1982, a complete stranger named Whitey Bulger crossed our paths, and everything we knew was gone in the blink of an eye.”

Others poured out the venom that had been stewing in them for decades.

“You thought you were an Irish icon, but you are a domestic terrorist fueled by greed,” said Sean McGonagle, whose father, Paul, was a Bulger victim. “No one cares what legacy you leave or what code you live by,” he said as he called the gangster a mentally deficient, sad, lonely old man.

The relatives said there was a stigma from being associated with a gangland murder and acknowledged depression and suicide attempts in their families. And they had trouble, they said, when people would ask how their father had died.

Kathleen Connors said she struggled with whether to answer that her father had almost been “cut in half” by a hail of bullets, or to tell “the PG version.”

Theresa Bond, whose father, Arthur Barrett, was shot in the head by Mr. Bulger, was charitable toward Mr. Bulger, who did not look at the family members as they spoke.

“Could you please look at me?” she asked quietly as she began. He raised his head. “I don’t hate you,” she said. She asked whether he had remorse for taking her father’s life but he did not answer. “I think you do,” she said. “I forgive you.”

Meredith Riggs, whose father was also murdered, wanted to end her decades of agony. “The healing can begin,” she said. “The nightmare is over, the pain stops here.”

Many acknowledged that their fathers or husbands were no saints. But, they said, that did not excuse Mr. Bulger’s murderous rampages. Mr. McGonagle addressed him calmly as “Satan” and said, “My father was no Boy Scout, but he was a better man than you could ever be.”

Many were infuriated that Mr. Bulger was not looking at them as they spoke. Dressed in a fluorescent orange jumpsuit, he was mostly taking notes on a yellow legal pad, much as he had during the eight-week trial, with his head down.

Steve Davis, whose sister Debra was strangled to death, became overwhelmed with emotion when he spoke. “This man has built up so much hate in my heart, I’d like to strangle him myself,” he said. He then erupted in fury, calling Mr. Bulger an expletive and demanding, “Look at me.” Mr. Bulger put on his black-framed glasses and briefly glanced his way.

“She did not deserve to die this way,” Mr. Davis said. “I hope Whitey dies the same way my sister did, gasping for breath as he takes his last breath.”

David Wheeler, whose father was shot between the eyes, unleashed a diatribe against the F.B.I., which he said had promised to protect his father, and against the “so called” Department of Justice, which, he said, covered up the circumstances of his father’s murder and has never apologized. The F.B.I. is “as responsible as the defendant sitting here before you,” he said. “My family and I have nothing but contempt for you.”

The prosecution has called for the maximum punishment of two consecutive life sentences, saying Mr. Bulger has “no redeeming qualities.”

“The defendant has been getting arrested since the time that Harry Truman was president,” Brian Kelly, a prosecutor, told the court. “The carnage he has caused is grotesque.”

Mr. Bulger, who had called the entire proceeding a “sham,” chose not to say anything.

Anthony Cardinale, a lawyer who has represented mobsters and who attended the trial regularly, said that Mr. Bulger was smart not to speak because the family’s emotional and heartfelt statements would have upstaged him.

“He wouldn’t allow himself to be upstaged,” Mr. Cardinale said. “But he’ll probably blurt something out in court tomorrow.”

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/11/14/us/tears-and-anguish-from-family-members-of-bulgers-victims.html?from=homepage



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