Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Former associates of Whitey Bulger discuss their concepts of honor and loyalty

“Family and friends come first,” John Martorano, an aging gangster known as the Executioner, declared from the witness stand here on Tuesday. “My father always taught me that. The priests and the nuns I grew up with taught me that. They taught me that Judas — Judas was the worst person in the world.”
Just a few days into testimony at one of the most sensational criminal trials in this city’s history, it is clear that something more is at stake than the racketeering and murder charges in the 32-count indictment against James "Whitey" Bulger, the notorious ruler of Boston’s underworld in the 1970s and ’80s.
The trial has focused in its early days on the criminals’ concepts of honor and loyalty, codes they say they lived by.
Mr. Martorano, for one, who has confessed to at least 20 murders, took offense at being called a “mass murderer,” did not like the term “hit man” and rejected the label “serial killer.”
He preferred the term “vigilante,” seeing in it the noble pursuit of protecting friends and family, especially if they were being hurt or double-crossed or could be hurt or double-crossed.
“Is there any honor or integrity in what you did?” Mr. Martorano was asked under relentless cross-examination on Tuesday by Henry Brennan, a defense lawyer.
“I thought so,” Mr. Martorano replied. “I thought both. I didn’t like risking my life, but I thought if the reason was right, I’d try.”
That concept of honor has been a subtext of this trial since the moment it opened last week. Mr. Bulger’s lead lawyer, J. W. Carney Jr., took the unusual tack of immediately acknowledging that his client was guilty of several charges against him, including drug dealing, illegal bookmaking and loansharking, and said he had made “millions upon millions” of dollars through his criminal enterprises.
But, the lawyer insisted, Mr. Bulger, 83, was never an F.B.I. informer, as the prosecution alleges. Nor, he said, did Mr. Bulger kill the two women on the list of 19 murders he is accused of participating in.
The code prohibits the killing of women. And being an informer is totally unacceptable — something that Mr. Carney said was deeply ingrained in the Irish, who for so long had to protect one another from their British overlords.
“The worst thing that an Irish person could consider doing was becoming an informant because of the history of the Troubles in Ireland,” he told the jury in his opening statement.
Mr. Martorano, 72, who told the court that he had regarded Mr. Bulger as a brother, is now testifying for the prosecution against him because, he said, he found out belatedly, after decades as partners in crime, that Mr. Bulger had violated that code and was an F.B.I. informer all along. (He was testifying under a deal that let him off with a 14-year sentence for his 20 confessed murders.)
Some legal observers of the trial have quickly concluded that the show going on in the federal courthouse is an exercise in self-delusion, all for the purpose of allowing Mr. Bulger — who sought the trial when he pleaded not guilty to all charges against him — to profess to the world that he abided by his personal code.
“They all have their own codes, and they betray those codes if they need to,” said Michael D. Kendall, a former federal prosecutor who investigated some aspects of Mr. Bulger’s activities. “They kill their friends, they kill their girlfriends, they want to make themselves sound better than they are. Whitey’s code is, ‘I didn’t strangle the woman, I watched the other guy strangle the woman.’ ”
The trial has gripped Boston, attracting scores of reporters from far and wide and earning prominent daily coverage in the newspapers, online and on the local news. Part of the fascination is with a world gone by, not only the old gritty streets of South Boston but the world before cellphones and e-mail became standard forms of communication.
In the world unfolding at the courthouse, a parade of aging gangsters describe speaking into walkie-talkies. They used phone booths. They hid astounding amounts of cash inside walls. They shipped arms across country by checking them on an ordinary passenger bus.
This world was marked by gangland slayings that now seem passé. At the center was the code that they now use to justify their actions.
“Bulger is the creator of that cult of the code,” said Anthony Cardinale, a criminal defense lawyer who has represented mobsters and who first exposed Mr. Bulger as an informer.
“This trial is about to eliminate the myths around this guy as a Robin Hood figure and let everyone know he is a bona fide rat,” Mr. Cardinale said. He added that he saw the trial as “a big, face-saving gesture” on Mr. Bulger’s part. “He wants to say: ‘Sure, I was a criminal, but why would I need to be a rat if I was so successful? And most important, I didn’t kill those two women.’ ”
In court, the prosecution treated Mr. Martorano, a star witness, with kid gloves as it led him through sanitized descriptions of many of his murders. But the defense painted an entirely different picture, of a ruthless killer who gunned down innocent bystanders without remorse and who lied. And it charged especially hard at Mr. Martorano’s notion that he doing the right thing by his friends and family.
“When you were doing the ‘right thing’ killing these people, why did you run and hide?” Mr. Brennan, the defense lawyer, asked him. “If you got caught, couldn’t you just explain that you were doing the right thing?”
Mr. Martorano had no answer.


Post a Comment