For two weeks, Whitey Bulger had been playing it cool at his trial in the courthouse named after his old neighbor Joe Moakley.
When prosecutor Brian Kelly described him as a vile gangster who murdered hoodlums and innocent women alike, Whitey stared straight ahead.
When Johnny Martorano, murderer turned snitch, sat an arm’s length away from Whitey, implicating him in no less than 11 murders, Whitey resisted the urge to reach out and touch him.
And when Diane Sussman de Tennen tearfully recalled how Whitey was part of the hit team that shot up the wrong car, leaving her friend Michael Milano dead and her boyfriend Louis Lapiana paralyzed, some jurors cried, but Whitey was a study in stoicism.
Alas, Whitey’s infamous temper returned with a vengeance on Thursday, as he listened to the testimony of John Morris, the corrupt FBI supervisor who gave up Whitey as an informant. Morris was the final, authoritative confirmation for The Boston Globe Spotlight Team’s bombshell in 1988 that Whitey had avoided prison because he was a protected FBI informant.
Morris insists he did so because he had been corrupted by Whitey and his partner in crime, Steve Flemmi, who had showered Morris with expensive wine and short money. Morris figured that if the Globe outed Whitey, the FBI would be forced to close him out as an informant.
Whitey has a different opinion. He believes Morris was trying to get him murdered by other gangsters who don’t take kindly to informants.
As it turns out, the FBI denied the Globe report, and Whitey told his FBI handlers not to worry, that the wiseguys wouldn’t believe the story, that they’d see it as just the Globe trying to smear his politician brother Billy.
Whitey was right about that. Wiseguys tend to lean right — hey, they’re small government types, right? — and they didn’t believe the “ultraliberal” Globe. Whitey continued to shake down drug dealers, amassing a fortune, and the FBI, rather than put their prized snitch in the Witness Protection Program, left Whitey on the street.
But for all the arrogance Whitey and the FBI showed in the aftermath of his outing by the Globe, he was furious at Morris and remains murderously hostile to him.
“You’re a [expletive] liar!” Whitey hissed at Morris Thursday.
Some people in the courtroom heard him. Some, including Judge Denise Casper, did not. But Kelly, the prosecutor, filled her in as soon as the jury left for a recess.
“Mr. Bulger has got a Sixth Amendment right to confront his accusers, but he doesn’t have the right to sit at defense table and say to the witness, ‘You’re an [expletive] liar’ when the witness testifies,” Kelly said, struggling to control his anger. “Now, I know he spent his whole life trying to intimidate people, including 15-year-old boys in South Boston, but he should not be doing that here in federal court.”
It may have been Kelly’s finest moment since this trial began, showing Whitey for the venal bully he is, and Kelly’s righteous indignation was fueled by the prior testimony of a man named Paul McGonagle.
When Paul McGonagle was 14 years old, Whitey allegedly killed his father, Paulie McGonagle, and buried his body under the sand at Tenean Beach in Dorchester.
Paul McGonagle was just a kid, and in the years after his dad disappeared he carried a photo of him around, hoping he’d bump into him and recognize him. He lives with the pain that his favorite aunt, Cathy Greig, sheltered his father’s alleged killer.
A year after he allegedly killed Paulie McGonagle, Whitey Bulger rolled up on young Paul in his blue Chevy, his blue eyes hidden behind aviator sunglasses. Whitey told the boy he had taken care of the guys who had taken care of his father.
Whitey’s self-serving lies to the son of a man he allegedly killed was cynical beyond belief, the act of an evil person. It captured Whitey Bulger’s essence. It was the most devastating evidence against him to date.Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.