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'Whitey' Bulger sentenced to life in prison for reign of terror

November 14, 2013|By Alana Semuels

BOSTON -- James “Whitey” Bulger will spend the rest of his life in prison, a federal judge ordered Thursday, capping a trial that detailed the Boston mobster’s decades-long reign of terror.

"The scope, the callousness, the depravity of your crimes are almost unfathomable," said Judge Denise J. Casper, who ordered Bulger to pay $19.5 million in restitution.

A federal court jury convicted Bulger in August of 11 counts of murder, as well as multiple counts of racketeering and gun possession. The two-month trial came years after the crimes; Bulger, now 84, had been a fugitive for 16 years until his 2011 arrest in Santa Monica.

The judge sentenced Bulger to two consecutive life terms plus five years, the punishment sought by prosecutors. Bulger’s lawyers did not weigh in on sentencing; they said he had instructed them not to because he considered the trial a sham.  

On Wednesday,  Casper heard testimony from a dozen relatives of those who were slain and listened as they called Bulger a greedy terrorist and even compared him to Satan.

“The testimony of human suffering that you and your associates inflicted on others was at times agonizing to hear and painful to watch,” Casper told Bulger, who appeared to be listening intently.

Bulger was the former head of the Winter Hill Gang, whose predatory violence belied its placid name. It was an Irish American criminal enterprise in Boston, where many things of value, especially its politics, was also run by Irish Americans. Their crimes included fixing horse races and even a gang war with another Irish American outfit over crime spoils.

During the trial, prosecutors portrayed Bulger as a ruthless crime boss who planned or ordered killings, and even committed some himself. After 16 years on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, Bulger was arrested on June 22, 2011, outside an apartment in Santa Monica along with his longtime girlfriend, Catherine Greig.

She pleaded guilty in 2012 to federal charges of conspiracy to harbor a fugitive, identity fraud, and conspiracy to commit identity fraud.

She is serving an eight-year prison sentence.

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