The Scapegoat

By English, T. J. | Newsweek, June 25, 2012 | Go to article overview
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The Scapegoat


English, T. J., Newsweek


Byline: T.J. English

FBI agent John Connolly went to jail for enabling the bloody reign of gangster Whitey Bulger. Now in an interview with Newsweek, he says the extent of the feds' cover-up may never be known.

In the 12 months since notorious mobster James "Whitey" Bulger was captured, he has been revealed to have feet of clay. Stripped of his power, Bulger awaits some form of justice, be it death from old age (he's 82), or adjudication in federal court, where he stands accused of 19 murders. Either way Bulger will be made to pay, though it has become increasingly apparent that the many people and institutions of government that made Whitey Bulger possible will not be held accountable. One of the most violent and pernicious criminal conspiracies in the history of American mobsterism is over, but for those who hoped that the prosecution of Bulger would be some form of final expose on the Bulger era, his trial is shaping up to be a whitewash.

Having lived 16 years on the run, 12 of those in an apartment near the beach in Santa Monica, Calif., with $822,198 cash and an arsenal of weapons stashed in a wall, Bulger was finally pinched after a tipster contacted the FBI with information about his fugitive girlfriend, Catherine Greig. Bulger and Greig, age 61, were arrested on June 23, 2011, and returned to Boston, where Whitey had for nearly a quarter century maintained a criminal business that included extortion, loan sharking, narcotics, fraud, illegal gambling, and murder.

Earlier this month Greig received an eight-year prison sentence and $150,000 fine for aiding and abetting a federal fugitive. With time served and allowable reductions for good behavior, she is likely to serve 76 months. Bulger's trial is scheduled to begin on November 5.

The evidence against Whitey is formidable. Since he went on the run in January 1995, most of his closest associates have cut deals with the government and testified at various hearings and trials, and they are likely to testify against Whitey at his trial. Any attempt to prosecute Bulger, however, is complicated by the fact that at the same time he was committing most of the alleged murders, he and his gangster partner, Steve Flemmi, were also working as top informants for the FBI.

It is Bulger's role as a government informant, and the way that role was fostered, facilitated, and kept confidential by a vast array of public servants, that has led many to suspect that the true nature of Bulger's criminal career will never be fully explored in a court of law. Actions taken since Whitey's arrest one year ago underscore these claims.

"The prosecution of Bulger is being carefully orchestrated," says Harvey Silverglate, a renowned Boston criminal-defense attorney and author who has written about the case. Silverglate uses the word "cover-up" to describe the prosecution's motives, adding, "If they wanted to convict Bulger swiftly, they could have tried him in California on gun-possession charges. Would have been an open-and-shut case. He'd have received a 30-year sentence. Or in Oklahoma, where one of the murders occurred; they have the death penalty. But the U.S. attorney's office in Boston is not about to let this case out from under its control. Because then details might come out that show a pattern of secrecy and cover-up going back generations."

The suspected cover-up kicked into gear last July when the U.S. attorney's office announced they had dropped all counts in the indictment except for the murder charges. "It is in the public interest to protect public resources--both executive and judicial--by bringing the defendant to trial on the government's strongest case," said U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, who declined to be interviewed. Dropping the racketeering counts would have had another benefit--greatly diminishing the possibility that Bulger's trial would explore how his racketeering career was underwritten, in large part, by the U.

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