A 1983 mugshot of James "Whitey" Bulger taken at the Boston office of the FBI. Credit: US Attorney's office
James "Whitey" Bulger will die in prison and will have to pay millions in restitution to the victims of his crimes.
The 84-year-old former leader of the Winter Hill gang was sentenced to life in prison Thursday during a hearing at federal court in South Boston.
Federal prosecutors requested two life sentences for most of his crimes, plus five years in jail on gun charges. Judge Denise Casper granted that recommendation and imposed a forfeiture and restitution order requiring Bulger to pay more than $19.5 million.
Casper told Bulger that during the trial, she wished she were watching a movie instead of hearing the testimony about the real life brutal violence Bulger inflicted.
"The testimony of human suffering you and your associates inflicted on others was at times agonizing to hear and painful to watch," Casper told Bulger in her reasoning for imposing the sentence. "Your crimes are made all the more heinous because they were all about money."
Bulger, dressed in his orange prison jumpsuit, stared straight ahead as he was told he wouldn't ever be released from prison.
A jury in August convicted Bulger of most of the charges he was indicted on, including his involvement in 11 of the 19 murders he was accused of participating in or ordering.
On Wednesday, a dozen family members of Bulger's victims took advantage of the opportunity to speak in front of him. They expressed anger and sadness that their loved ones had been killed. Some called Bulger a coward and a rat. Bulger was also given the opportunity to speak, but chose not to.
Speaking after the sentencing hearing on Thursday, Bulger's attorney J. W. Carney Jr. said the mob boss was proud that he did not speak or react during the sentencing.
"It took a lot of discipline for him not to react emotionally to some of the statements that were made [on Wednesday] and he's proud that he was able to conduct himself in that fashion where he did not react or speak during the sentencing," Carney said.
His lawyers also said they would appeal and that attorney Hank Brennan would be the lead counsel for the appeal.
United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz agreed with a family member of a victim who called Bulger a "domestic terrorist."
"Bulger was a terrorist and is a terrorist. He terrorized individuals across his path, driven by a desire for power, greed and ambition," Ortiz said. "Bulger deserves nothing less than to spend the rest of his life in jail for the harm, pain and suffering he caused to so many in this town."
Ortiz and the federal prosecutors have been criticized for working out deals with fellow Winter Hill gang members John Martorano, who is also a confessed killer, and Kevin Weeks.
When asked if making those deals was worth it to send Bulger to life in prison, Ortiz said yes.
"I believe so," she said, adding that it was a hard decision to make. "It's not something you enjoy doing."
For the families of Bulger's victims, the day was "a damn good feeling."
"That old bastard is finally going to be in prison and he's going to die in prison," said Tommy Donahue, whose father Michael was killed in 1982. "The next time I want to hear anything about him is hopefully he’s dead, you know?"