BOSTON — Prosecutors rested their case against reputed Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger on Friday after calling 63 witnesses who described in sometimes gruesome detail his alleged role in 19 murders, a string of extortions and other crimes.
Bulger, 83, is charged with 32 counts in a racketeering indictment that chronicles his alleged reign as leader of the Winter Hill Gang.
Bulger’s lawyers are expected to begin presenting witnesses Monday. Defense lawyer J.W. Carney Jr. would not say whether Bulger will take the stand in his own defense.
Bulger was one of the FBI’s most-wanted fugitives after he fled Boston in 1994, and the government ended its case Friday where freedom ended for Bulger: in a Santa Monica, rent-controlled apartment located just blocks from the beach and the world-famous Santa Monica Pier.
The jury heard riveting testimony from an FBI agent who described Bulger’s capture there on June 22, 2011.
Special Agent Scott Garriola said he mobilized a group of officers after the Boston FBI told him about a tip they had received that Bulger and longtime girlfriend Catherine Greig might be living in a Santa Monica apartment building.
Garriola said he decided to lure Bulger out of the apartment by having the building manager tell him that someone had broken into his storage locker. A few minutes later, Bulger got off the elevator and walked into the garage, where agents were waiting to arrest him.
Agents asked him to get down on his knees, but Bulger, who was dressed in white clothing and a summer hat, initially refused.
“He swore at us a few times, told us he wasn’t going to get down on his knees, there was grease on the floor, things like that,” Garriola said.
Garriola said Bulger initially identified himself as Charles Gasko, but eventually said, “You know who I am. … I’m Whitey Bulger.”
From that point on, Bulger was cooperative, giving his consent for agents to search the apartment and telling agents that he had loaded guns and a large amount of cash there.
Bulger led them to a total of 30 guns — including handguns and machine guns — most hidden inside holes he had cut into the walls, nearly $822,000 in cash, a stack of knifes and numerous false Social Security cards and fake driver’s licenses, Garriola said.
Garriola said Bulger repeatedly told him that he was cooperating in the hope of “future consideration for Catherine.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Zach Hafer asked Garriola to identify all 30 guns and to lay the piles of cash on a table as the jury watched.
Hafer also showed the jury photos of Bulger’s bookshelves, which contained a collection of books about organized crime. One was written by Kevin Weeks, a former henchman Bulger once described as his “surrogate son,” but who testified against him during the trial.
During cross-examination, Carney focused on Bulger’s cooperation and asked if Bulger had said he had planned to use his guns during his capture.
“Well, he paused and then he told me that ‘No, because a stray bullet may hit someone,'” Garriola said.
Judge Denise Casper has yet to rule on a request from prosecutors to bar several defense witnesses from taking the stand on the grounds that their testimony would be irrelevant or repetitive. Chief among those witnesses is Patrick Nee, a former Bulger associate who has been accused of playing a role in several murders, including the 1982 shooting deaths of Edward “Brian” Halloran and Michael Donahue.
Bulger’s former partner, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, testified that Nee told him that his gun jammed as he and Bulger sprayed Donahue’s car with bullets.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Kelly said Nee is almost certain to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if he is called as a witness because he could still potentially be charged in state court. Carney, however, said Nee could choose to answer some questions and invoke his Fifth Amendment right on others. Nee’s lawyer, Steven Boozang, declined to comment.
Carney also hopes to call Marion Hussey, the mother of murder victim Deborah Hussey. Carney said her testimony could bolster the defense claim that it was Flemmi, not Bulger, who killed her daughter.
Also Friday, a lawyer for the ex-wife of a man who had been expected to testify for prosecutors said the investigation into his death is focusing on something unrelated to the Bulger case.
Stephen Rakes had hoped to take the witness stand and describe how Bulger forced him at gunpoint to sell his South Boston liquor store to Bulger and his gang so they could use it as a headquarters and a front.
Rakes’ body was found in Lincoln last week, a day after prosecutors told him they no longer intended to call him as a witness.
On Friday, Anthony Cardinale, a lawyer for Rakes’ ex-wife Julie Dammers, said the family believes investigators are focusing on Rakes’ death as suspicious, but not connected to the Bulger case.