BOSTON (Reuters) - Federal prosecutors on Thursday asked a judge to sentence convicted Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger to two consecutive life sentences plus five years, arguing that the man who was convicted of 11 murders “deserves no mercy.”
U.S. District Judge Denise Casper next week is due to sentence Bulger. The former leader of Boston’s Winter Hill gang was convicted in August after a trial that featured graphic accounts of gang members machine-guning rivals, beating up extortion victims and burying bodies in the dirt-floored basement of a South Boston home.
“Bulger’s horrific crimes and sadistic behavior (e.g., shooting Bucky Barrett in the back of the head at close range after hours of interrogation and then lying down on the couch to relax as his gang buried Barrett) demonstrate that he deserves no mercy at the time of sentencing,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo filed on Thursday.
Prosecutors called Bulger one of the “most violent and despicable criminals in Boston history.”
Relatives of many of Bulger’s murder victims are expected to testify in the sentencing hearing scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday about the emotional impact of his crimes.
During the trial, defense lawyers conceded that the 84-year-old Bulger was a violent “organized criminal” and focused much of their efforts on denying a government claim that Bulger served as an informant to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. While being an FBI informant was not a crime, it was such a severe breach of Bulger’s underworld code that it motivated several of the murders he carried out.
Bulger ultimately was convicted of 31 of 32 criminal counts in a sprawling indictment that charged him with racketeering, extortion and 11 murders, including strangling the girlfriend of fellow gang member Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, who testified at the trial.
The heated trial was interrupted several times when Bulger swore at witnesses and former gang mates swore back at him.
The Winter Hill criminal gang ruled ruthlessly over the Boston underworld in the 1970s and ‘80s thanks in part to a relationship between Bulger and a corrupt FBI agent that was later the subject of the Hollywood feature film “The Departed.” The agent shared Bulger’s Irish ethnicity and South Boston upbringing, and turned a blind eye to his crimes in exchange for information the bureau could use against the Italian-American Mafia.
A tip from that agent allowed Bulger to flee Boston in 1994 shortly before he was due to be arrested. Bulger spent 16 years on the lam before the FBI caught up with him in 2011 in a seaside apartment in Santa Monica, California, where he was living.
Bulger declined to testify during his trial, at one point telling the judge, “This is a sham and do what you want with me.”
Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and David Gregorio