By Denise Lavoie
Former Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger was led off to prison Thursday to begin serving a life sentence at 84 for his murderous reign in the 1970s and ’80s, accepting his punishment in stone-faced silence even as a judge castigated him for his “almost unfathomable” depravity.
Bulger’s sentencing brought to a close a sordid case that exposed FBI complicity in his crimes and left a trail of devastated families whose loved ones — fathers, uncles, brothers and sisters — were killed by Bulger or his henchmen.
Many of the relatives had vented their anger at Bulger during the first day of his sentencing hearing on Wednesday, calling him a “terrorist,” a “punk” and “Satan.”
So when U.S. District Judge Denise Casper announced the punishment and Bulger was led from the courtroom, there were no shouts of joy or applause from the families, just silence.
Afterward, many said they took some comfort in knowing that Bulger will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
“That old bastard is finally going to prison. He’s going to die in prison,” said Tom Donahue, whose father was gunned down by Bulger after he happened to offer a ride home to a man who was Bulger’s actual target.
Bulger, the former boss of the Winter Hill Gang, Boston’s Irish mob, fled the city in 1994 after being tipped off by a former FBI agent that he was about to be indicted. He was a fugitive for more than 16 years until he was captured in Santa Monica, Calif., in 2011.
His disappearance became a major embarrassment for the FBI when it was learned that corrupt Boston agents had taken bribes from Bulger and protected him for years while he worked as an FBI informant, feeding information on the rival New England Mafia.
A jury convicted Bulger in August in a broad racketeering case. He was found guilty in 11 of the 19 killings he was accused of, along with dozens of other gangland crimes, including shakedowns and money laundering.