Whitey Bulger and FBI Go Head-to-Head in Trial, But Whitey Gets the Last Laugh
The trial of Boston gangster and FBI informant Whitey Bulger trial went to the jury Tuesday after two months of heated trial that featured a cast of felons and convicted murderers, many of whom received reduced sentences for cooperation, all leading to increased scrutiny for the compromises and corruption of law enforcement, placing the FBI on trial. As the jury decides the outcome of the 83-year-old mobster, it's unlikely that the FBI will come out unscathed.
Bulger is charged with 32 crimes including 19 murders while working as an informant for the Boston FBI. Bulger claims that as an informant, a (now dead) FBI agent promised him total immunity for his tips, including one that allegedly saved the life of an FBI agent.
Bulger's defense attorneys have alternated between defending Bulger as a sort of Robin Hood who kept hard drugs off the streets of Boston and smearing corrupt law enforcement that at times was as bad as the criminals it fought. In closing arguments, Bulger's attorney shared how Bulger's former partner-turned informant Stephen "Rifleman" Flemmi traded information with the FBI in order to kill a rival gang member.
The defense also examined the deals offered the key witnesses against Bulger. John Martorano, convicted of 20 murders, was let off after 12 years in prison and given $20,000 to help him get back on his feet after prison for his role in bringing down Bulger. Another informant, Kevin Weeks, was released from jail after five years for his involvement in five murders.
During closing arguments, prosecutor Fred Wyshak was forced to admit law enforcements' flaws, conceding that the Boston FBI office was "a mess" in the 70's and 80's, saying he "held his nose" when forced to cut deals with convicts to bring down bigger fish.
It remains to be seen how much the prosecution can distance itself from the taint of corruption in order to convict Bulger. The case comes at a time when many are fed up with the schemes that government and law enforcement use to prevent and prosecute crime. Many do believe law enforcement has gone too far in using informants.
Among the defense's supporters is Tommy Donahue, whose father was killed by Bulger's colleague after a corrupt FBI officer tipped off Bulger's gang that Donahue's father's friend was about to implicate Bulger in a murder.
While Bulger will be convicted on most of the 32 charges, his trial will cause long-term harm to the credibility of crime enforcement. By exposing the internal corruption that the FBI engaged in to nab Bulger, Bulger may have the last laugh.