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Widow of Bulger victim says money should go to families

Patrica Donahue, with sons Tom (left) and Michael (right), left a court session during the James “Whitey” Bulger trial.

Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff/File

Patrica Donahue, with sons Tom (left) and Michael (right), left a court session during the James “Whitey” Bulger trial.

The widow of a man killed by James “Whitey” Bulger told a judge Friday that splitting the gangster’s “blood money” among the families of his victims is the only way they can be compensated, because the government has refused to pay for the FBI’s role in some of the slayings.

In a petition filed on behalf of Patrica Donahue, her lawyer said the FBI, the US Attorney’s office in Boston, the Justice Department, the US attorney general’s office, the Massachusetts congressional delegation “and ultimately the United States government have failed their moral responsibility, and continue to do so.”

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Donahue’s lawyer, Edward T. Hinchey wrote, “Perhaps the last and only opportunity for the Donahue family to be compensated is by participating in the distribution of the blood money of James Bulger.”

Prosecutors have urged US District Judge Denise J. Casper, who presided over Bulger’s trial, to order a $25.2 million judgment against the gangster, which would allow prosecutors to seize all of his current assets, including $822,000 seized from his California apartment, and any future profits he might make. The government said it will distribute the money among the families of Bulger’s murdered victims and the innocent victims he extorted.

But, Donahue, joining petitions filed earlier by the families of two other Bulger victims, urged the judge to oversee the seizure of Bulger’s assets and the distribution of the money to the families, instead of trusting the task to the government.

Bulger, 84, was convicted in August of participating in 11 murders, including the 1982 slaying of Patricia Donahue’s husband, Michael, and Edward “Brian” Halloran, while running a sprawling criminal enterprise from the 1970s through the 1990s. He is slated to be sentenced in November.

Bulger’s former associates testified that Bulger killed Halloran because corrupt FBI agent John J. Connolly Jr. warned him that Halloran was cooperating with the FBI and had implicated the gangster in other murders. Donahue, a 32-year-old truck driver from Dorchester, was an innocent bystander who was giving Halloran a ride home when Bulger and an accomplice riddled their car with bullets.

Former FBI supervisor, John Morris admitted taking $7,000 in bribes from Bulger and his partner, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, both longtime informants, and leaking information to them. He testified that he had told Connolly that Halloran was cooperating and apologized to the Donahue family from the witness stand.

In 2009, a judge found that the government was liable for the murders of Donahue and Halloran because of the FBI’s role and awarded $6.4 million to Donahue’s widow and three sons, and just over $2 million to Halloran’s wife.

But, in 2011, a divided federal appeals court reversed the decision, ruling that the families were not entitled to anything because they should have known sooner that there was evidence that the FBI was liable for the slayings.

In a dissent, Appeals Court Judge Juan Torruella referred to the reversal as “an unjust outcome which rewards official uncontrolled wickedness.”

Bulger, who fled shortly before his 1995 racketeering indictment after Connolly warned him to flee, was captured in Santa Monica, Calif., in June 2011, after more than 16 years on the run.

In Donahue’s petition filed Friday, her lawyer wrote that since Bulger’s conviction the United States has refused to participate in any discussions about compensating the Donahues for the government’s role in Michael Donahue’s slaying.

The Donahues, whose civil claims against former agents have not been dismissed, are waiting for the government to decide whether it will indemnify Morris and Connolly and compensate the Donahues.

Shelley Murphy can be reached at shmurphy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shelleymurph.
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