By Scott Malone
Convicted mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger will spend the rest of his life in prison after a U.S. judge on Thursday sentenced him to serve two life terms plus five years for crimes he committed, including 11 murders.
“The scope, the callousness, the depravity of your crimes are almost unfathomable,” U.S. District Judge Denise Casper told Bulger, 84, who was convicted in August on charges that also included racketeering, extortion and drug dealing as he ran Boston’s Winter Hill crime gang in the 1970s and ’80s.
Bulger stood silently, wearing an orange prison jumpsuit over a long-sleeved T-shirt, as his sentence was read at Boston’s waterfront federal courthouse, located blocks from the scene of some of his murders.
Attorneys for Bulger declined to speak on his behalf at the two-day sentencing hearing, saying their client had instructed them not to participate in a proceeding he viewed as “a sham.”
After a two-month trial, Bulger was found guilty of 31 of 32 criminal counts, including 11 of the 19 murders prosecutors had accused him of committing.
Bulger’s trial was raw, broken by outbursts in which former gangmates-turned-prosecution witnesses swore at the man who lived on the lam for 16 years.
During Thursday’s hearing, he spoke only once, replying “Yes,” when Casper asked if he understood he had a right to appeal the verdict.
She also ordered Bulger to pay $19.5 million in restitution to his victims.
‘GOING TO DIE IN PRISON’
Some family members of Bulger’s victims said they were satisfied with the sentence.
“That old bastard is finally going to be in prison, he’s going to die in prison,” said Thomas Donahue, whose father Michael was among Bulger’s victims. “Today is the first day that we can finally get on the road for closure, and it’s a good feeling. It’s bittersweet, but it’s a good feeling.”
Tom Angeli, whose father Al Notorangeli was among the eight people Bulger was accused of killing but whose deaths the jury did not hold him responsible for, voiced a similar sentiment.
“We knew right from the beginning, when this trial started, that this man wasn’t going to see the light of day again. It’s about accountability, that’s all I ever wanted is accountability, and I think we’ve gotten it,” Angeli said.
Bulger ruled violently over Boston’s criminal world, helped by a relationship with a corrupt FBI agent who shared Bulger’s Irish ancestry and was willing to turn a blind eye to his crimes in exchange for information on the Italian-American Mafia.
In 1994, on a tip that his arrest was imminent, Bulger fled the city. Agents finally caught up with him in June 2011, living in a Santa Monica, California, apartment with his girlfriend, a cache of weapons and $800,000 in cash.
Bulger denied ever serving as an FBI informant and had wanted to argue at trial that he could not be prosecuted because he had been promised immunity by federal prosecutors. A federal judge blocked Bulger’s attorneys from making that case in court, saying no immunity deal would allow an informant to commit murder.
Bulger’s story has captivated the city’s residents for years. He rose from a South Boston housing project to become the most feared person in the city at the same time that his brother, William, became the powerful president of the state senate.
His life inspired Martin Scorsese’s 2006 Academy Award-winning film “The Departed”.
“The testimony of human suffering that you and your associates inflicted on others was at times agonizing to hear and painful to watch,” Casper said. “At times during the trial I wished that we were watching a movie, that what we were hearing was not real.”