By Scott Malone
BOSTON | Tue Sept 10, 2013
(Reuters) – More than a dozen relatives of James “Whitey” Bulger’s murder victims hope to testify at the convicted mob boss’ sentencing hearing in November, U.S. prosecutors told a judge on Tuesday.
Bulger, 84, faces the possibility of life in prison after being convicted last month of 31 criminal counts, including 11 murders he committed or ordered while running Boston’s notorious “Winter Hill” crime gang in the 1970s and 80s.
Prosecutors intend to submit statements from family members of all 19 people Bulger was accused of killing or ordering murdered, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Kelly told U.S. District Judge Denise Casper. The jury found him guilty on 11 of those 19 murder charges.
Bulger was not present in court on Tuesday. His sentencing is scheduled to begin November 13. Casper said she expected any family members of victims to control their anger if they testify.
“I understand, inevitably, that it will be very difficult for the family members who choose to speak to speak and express the sadness, the loss and, yes, the anger they feel,” Casper said. “But particularly in regard to the last emotion, anger, I would just note that … I tried very hard during the trial to maintain a certain decorum in this trial and I will try to continue to do that.”
Jurors heard several profane exchanges between Bulger and his former criminal associates, many of whom received reduced sentences for their crimes in exchange for testifying against their former boss.
Bulger’s two-month trial capped off one of Boston’s longest-running crime dramas. Bulger rose to power from a South Boston housing project, aided by corrupt FBI agents who turned a blind eye to his crimes in exchange for information on other gangs.
He fled the city in 1994 after an agent tipped him off that arrest was imminent. Bulger remained on the lam for about 16 years before the Federal Bureau of Investigation caught up with him living in a seaside apartment in Santa Monica, California, with a stockpile of weapons and more than $800,000 in cash.
Witnesses at the trial recounted incidents from an era in Boston when machine-gun-toting gangsters murdered associates and innocent bystanders in brazen daytime hits and buried their victims’ bodies in vacant lots.
(Reporting by Scott Malone)