Sun, Aug 04, 2013 - Page 7 News List

James ‘Whitey’ Bulger refuses to testify in ‘sham’ trial

AFP, BOSTON

Alleged Boston mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger will discover his fate next week after refusing to testify on Friday in his trial for murder and other crimes.

Lawyers for the 83-year-old brought their defense to an end by confirming that their client’s much-anticipated appearance in the dock would not happen, clearing the way for the jury to start considering its verdict next week after one of the most engrossing criminal underworld trials in US history.

Bulger who is accused of 19 murders, extortion, money-laundering and arms trafficking, said he would not testify because he had been prevented from telling his full side of the story.

This centers on a claim that federal agents, including the late US attorney Jeremiah O’Sullivan, had granted him immunity from prosecution.

That line of defense was described as a fantasy by prosecutors and deemed inadmissible by the judge in a pre-trial hearing.

Asked by Judge Denise Casper if he had made the decision not to give evidence voluntarily, Bulger replied: “I’m making the choice involuntarily because I feel I’ve been choked off and unable to get my word out about Jeremiah O’Sullivan and saving his life.”

“This trial is unfair and a sham... Do what you want with me,” he added angrily.

Bulger’s stance disappointed a packed courtroom that had anticipated listening to him give his version of events over the course of decades of involvement in Boston’s murky underworld.

Closing arguments in the case will now be heard tomorrow and the jury will be instructed on Tuesday.

Friday was the 35th day of a trial in which the jurors have heard evidence from 72 witnesses, some of whom have recounted harrowing tales of murder victims having their teeth removed and a mobster’s girlfriend being strangled to death because she “knew too much.”

The proceedings at the US district court were also marked by the sudden death of Stephen Rakes, 59, who had been due to give evidence related to the time when Bulger allegedly ran South Boston as a personal fiefdom. Suspicions that Bulger was involved in the death were allayed later in the day when police announced the arrest of 69-year-old William Camuti on charges of having killed Rakes, to whom he owed money, by slipping cyanide into his iced coffee.

Bulger has always denied having been an informant for the FBI — a stance he maintained in pre-trial hearings even though it may have given his claim of having some kind of immunity deal greater credibility.

However, the links between some FBI agents in Boston and Bulger’s Winter Hill Gang in the 1970s and 1980s have been well documented.

Former FBI agent John Connolly is currently in prison after being convicted in 2002 of effectively becoming a member of the gang.

O’Sullivan, who died in 2009, testified to the US Congress that year that some of the FBI’s gangland informers had committed murders and that he believed his attempts to bug Bulger’s offices had been sabotaged by insiders in the FBI.

There are also suspicions that friends in the FBI may have aided Bulger during the 16 years that he was on the run before he was finally arrested in 2011.

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