In a federal courtroom in Boston today, Timothy Connors was the first of four people who lost loved ones to James “Whitey’’ Bulger’s reign of terror to speak at the sentencing of Bulger’s long-time girlfriend, Catherine Greig.
“You are as much a criminal as Whitey, and you ought to be handled as such,’’ Connors said to Greig at her sentencing hearing in US District Court. “You are a cold-hearted criminal.”
Connors took the stand 37 years to the day after his father, Edward, was shot to death while he was standing in a telephone booth on Morrissey Boulevard. Authorities allege Edward Connors was murdered on June 12, 1975, because he had been talking about his involvement in the Dec. 1, 1973, killing of Bulger rival James S. “Spike” O’Toole.
The death of Edward Connors was one of the killings that confessed hitman John Martorano admitted in 2004 that he participated in with Bulger and Bulger sidekick Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi.
On the witness stand today, Timothy Connors harshly attacked Greig, who lost a brother to suicide.
“If truth be told, if I had a sister like you, I would have killed myself, too,” said Connors.
During the hearing, Greig paid close attention to what was being said by the prosecutors, her attorney, and then by the relatives of those allegedly slain by the man she loved, Bulger.
For the most part, when the victims’ relatives were speaking, Greig looked straight ahead, avoided eye contact, and showed no obvious emotion.
However, with Connors’s reference to the 1984 death of her brother, David, Greig’s composure crumpled. She gasped when Connors spoke and then put her hands to her face and mouth – and started to cry. It took her several minutes to regain her composure.
In March, Greig said in open court that she had sought psychiatric counseling after her brother shot himself to death.
Bulger is charged with conspiring to murder 19 people between 1973 and 1983 when he was both an informant for the Boston office of the FBI and a fearsome organized crime figure in the city.
Prosecutors say Greig, 61, was the “key actor” in a conspiracy that allowed Bulger to evade law enforcement for 16 years, until both of them were arrested in California last year. She pleaded guilty in March to three charges: conspiracy to harbor a fugitive, conspiracy to commit identity fraud, and identity fraud. She faces a maximum of five years behind bars for each charge and a $250,000 fine.
Speaking from the bench today, US District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock said he was allowing the relatives to speak as a means to help heal the community, not as a basis for deciding what sentence he would finally impose on Greig.
Woodlock said the law does not permit relatives of a crime victim to address the court when the defendant is not charged with directly harming them.
“It’s not a matter of right,” Woodlock said of his decision to let the victims’ relatives testify. “It’s a matter of the right thing.”
The second witness to speak today was Steven Davis, whose 26-year-old sister Debra was allegedly strangled by Bulger in 1981, called Greig a “dirty [expletive]’’ who lacked the courage to “look us in the eye.’’
Davis was followed on the witness stand by Patricia Donahue, whose husband, Michael Donahue, was shot to death in 1982 because he gave a ride home to Bulger’s actual target that night, Edward Halloran, who was informing against Bulger and Flemmi with the FBI.
“I believe he [Bulger] wouldn’t have survived all those years without her help,’’ Donahue said. “She was his enabler.’’
Paul McGonagle’s father, who was also named Paul, was a rival of Bulger’s from South Boston. He disappeared in 1974; his body was recovered from a makeshift gravesite at Tenean Beach in Dorchester in 2000.
“My father had his faults, but no matter what he did, he did not deserve to die the way he did,” Paul McGonagle said.
A fifth witness also spoke about the impact of Bulger’s crimes. Stephen Rakes, who had his South Boston liquor store taken over by Bulger, testified that he thought Bulger had been arrested in 1995, only to learn that he had fled Boston after being tipped off about his impending arrest by corrupt FBI Agent John Connolly.
Rakes testified that he spent the following 16 years fearing that Bulger would return - and kill him.Martin Finucane and John R. Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report.