They have vented their frustration before, each time James “Whitey’’ Bulger or his corrupt FBI handlers escaped justice.
But on Tuesday, the families of the notorious gangster’s alleged victims were able to speak directly to his girlfriend, Catherine Greig, and they blasted her, holding her accountable for helping Bulger evade justice for 16 years.
Five of them spoke briefly, but pointedly, each expressing the same wrath.
“You’re a cold-hearted criminal,’’ said Tim Connors, whose father, Eddie Connors, was gunned down in a telephone booth on Morrissey Boulevard exactly 37 years ago Tuesday.
“You never showed any sympathy toward any of us,’’ he said. Connors, in turn, showed no sympathy toward Greig for her brother’s suicide years ago.
“Truth be told,’’ Connors said, “if I had a sister like you, I’d kill myself, too.’’
In a rare display of emotion, Greig, 61, broke down in tears. Connors still did not seem to care.
US District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock had warned that the families’ comments could be crude, cruel, “reflecting vengeance.’’ Steve Davis, whose sister Debra Davis was allegedly strangled by Bulger and an associate, described Greig with an expletive and said she did not have the courage to “look us in the eye.’’
Woodlock had stressed that it was appropriate to allow the families the opportunity to speak. Their relatives were not only victims of the notorious gangster; they also fell prey to Bulger’s corrupt relationship with the FBI, the judge said, and this was an opportunity for the insiders who manage the criminal justice system to hear from the aggrieved.
“It’s not a matter of a right,’’ the judge said. “It’s a matter of the right thing.’’
Greig had pleaded guilty to helping Bulger stay on the run by handling his day-to-day affairs and by bringing him to the doctor’s office.
Tom Donahue welcomed the eight-year sentence Woodlock gave Greig. His father, Michael, was an innocent bystander when he was shot, allegedly by Bulger, in 1982.
“We’ve walked into a judge who is finally going to give someone some time in jail,’’ Donahue said.
Greig did not address the court. Later, her lawyer, Kevin Reddington, asked why she should, and he said she was hurt by the families’ comments, especially their use of crude personal references.
“Calling her the names that they did is just beyond reprehensible,’’ he said. “It was disgusting. She was and is in love with Mr. Bulger, and she’s certainly a person who does not regret what she did in living her life with him.’’
US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz said of the victims, “They’re speaking out of tremendous pain.’’
“I don’t think anyone here would want to trade places with any of those victims’ family members, who have lost loved ones in a horrifically tragic way, who have been waiting for the longest time to see justice being done.’’
Patricia Donahue, Michael’s widow, said that Greig “bears a lot of responsibility for Whitey Bulger being a fugitive for 16 years.’’
“I believe he never would have survived all those years without her help,’’ Donahue said.
Stephen Rakes, who said Bulger’s threats of violence compelled him to sell his South Boston liquor store to the gangster, said he thought Bulger would be arrested in 1995, after Bulger was indicted. Instead, he lived in fear until Bulger’s arrest last year. Rakes blamed Greig.
And Paul McGonagle, whose father was allegedly killed by Bulger in 1974, said his family felt betrayed by Greig. She was his aunt by marriage, though she later divorced his uncle.
McGonagle was 14 when his father “disappeared.’’ It would be 27 years before McGonagle learned what had happened: His father’s body was one of six discovered in secret graves in 2000 in Dorchester and Quincy.
“The pain and loss that I, and my family, felt for the many years my father was missing is only exacerbated by the fact that Catherine Greig . . . aided the murderer of my father to remain free for 16 years,’’ he said.
Tim Connors was just 6 months old when his father was gunned down, allegedly by Bulger.
“You aren’t here by choice,’’ he said. “You are here only because you were caught. You are as much of a criminal as Whitey and should be handled as such.’’
Connors said in an interview later that he meant to say what he did, that it was the only way to convey to Greig the pain he and others suffered for so long.
“I have no regrets at all,’’ he said.