(Updated) Bulger refuses to speak at sentencing as angry families testify

bulger james whitey bulger boston
A 1983 mugshot of James “Whitey” Bulger taken at the Boston office of the FBI.
Credit: U.S. Attorney’s office

It was a day of tears and hate inside the federal courthouse in South Boston where victims of mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger angrily confronted him.

Bulger, who was dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, was also given the chance to speak, but stood up and said “No.” His lawyers said that Bugler had instructed them not to participate in the sentencing, citing his speech following his conviction that his trial was “a sham.”

Twelve family members of Bulger’s victims gave impact statements during Wednesday morning’s hearing. Judge Denise Casper will hand down her sentence to Bulger on Thursday.

Despite the objection from Bulger and his attorneys, Casper exercised her discretion and allowed all of the victims’ family members to speak if they wished.

Some of the victims cried as they spoke about their loved ones and others gripped the podium in anger.

“This man has built up so much hate in my heart. I’d like to strangle him myself,” said Steve Davis, the brother of Debra Davis. The government has accused Bulger of murdering Davis, but the jury returned no finding on that charge. “The son of a b— should look every one of his victims in the eye … You piece of s—. Look at me.”

Bulger did not look at most of the family members, but he turned to briefly glance at Davis.

Patricia Donahue, whose husband Michael was gunned down, chose to talk about her husband rather than focus on Bulger.

“Our hearts were torn wide open,” Donahue said. “He was always so happy. He even woke up happy — who does that?”

In August a jury found Bulger guilty on most of the charges in the indictment against him, including 11 of the 19 murders he was accused of. Bulger claimed he was given immunity by a former assistant US attorney, a claim that a judge blocked him from presenting during the trial.

During his trial, former FBI agents testified about having corrupt relationships with the mob boss who they said provided information to them.

For David Wheeler, the son of murdered Oklahoma businessman Roger Wheeler, the anger toward the federal government was still there.

“The FBI, entrusted with the greatest law enforcement powers in this nation, is responsible for my father’s murder. They are as responsible for that murder as the defendant here sitting before you,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler also had some choice words for Bulger.

“Shame on you, Mr. Bugler. For all of your notoriety, you were a punk,” Wheeler said. “And you don’t even matter anymore. You have turned from government-sponsored assassin to a bag of jailhouse rags waiting to be stored on cold steel. Enjoy your retirement.”

While many of the family members spoke with hate, one of them, the daughter of Arthur Barrett, actually forgave Bulger. She said she believed that Bulger felt remorse for killing her father and said “I forgive you.”

“I just want you to know that I don’t hate you. I don’t have the authority. That would be judging you,” said Theresa Bond, after asking Bulger to look at her.

Prosecutors have argued that Bulger should get two life sentences plus five years for gun convictions. Casper will likely sentence him to life in prison on Thursday.

Follow Michael Naughton on Twitter @metrobosmike.


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