Bookies testify against Bulger

bulger whitey bulger boston
James “Whitey” Bulger seen in a state police surveillance image taken in 1980.
Credit: US Attorney’s office

A pair of former bookmakers testified Friday against James “Whitey” Bulger, providing first-hand accounts of how he and his fellow mobsters allegedly extorted people and instilled fear. 

Day three of the alleged mob boss’ trial began with 72-year-old James Katz testifying. Katz was a former bookie who was himself indicted, sent to jail and later entered the witness protection program after agreeing to testify for the government.

Katz said early in his testimony that he originally lied to investigators and said that his testimony in the early 1990s was “mostly not” true. When asked by a prosecutor why, he cited Bulger and his associates.

“I knew that if I testified they could even reach me in jail … the Bulger group,” said Katz.

Katz also testified about paying $1,000 per month in “rent” to Bulger’s group in order to stay in business. It was something he had to do, he said.

“You had to be affiliated with someone in those days, if it was that group (Bulger gang) or the North End (mafia), in order to stay in business,” Katz said.

During cross-examination, Bulger’s attorney J. W. Carney, Jr., tried to paint Katz as a man who was desperate to get out of a more than four year prison sentence and $1 million repayment order and so he signed a cooperating agreement with the government.

Carney asked Katz how often he saw his wife while he was in prison.

“Twice,” Katz said.

“Did you miss her,” Carney asked.

“Yes,” Katz said.

Carney then followed up with a question that made Katz chuckle nervously and look to Judge Denise Capser for guidance.

“Was there someone to gently touch your arm,” Carney asked.

Carney later asked Katz if he would tell a lie to protect his wife. “I’m sure most people would,” Katz replied.

Carney also repeatedly quizzed Katz on how he told authorities that even though he for years paid “rent” to the Winter Hill Gang, he only met Bulger once.

Next on the witnesses stand was Richard O’Brien, another former bookie.

The 84-year-old Florida man also testified how he had to pay monthly “rent” to the gang and recounted an instance where he, Bulger and hitman John Martorano met with one of O’Brien’s agents who owed money.

Bulger questioned the deadbeat agent about why he owed O’Brien so much money and stopped contacting him.

O’Brien said he recalled Bulger telling the agent “We have a business besides book-making … killing assholes like you.”

Prosecutors were still performing their direct questioning of O’Brien when Casper adjourned court for the day and the weekend. Bulger’s trial resumes Monday morning.

For updates on the Bulger trial follow Michael Naughton on Twitter @metrobosmike.


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