James “Whitey” Bulger exploded in rage at his federal racketeering trial Tuesday, loudly trading obscenities with a former protégé who berated him from the witness stand as a “rat” who informed on his friends.
Bulger, 83, had appeared stoic as Kevin J. Weeks testified in US District Court in Boston that Bulger strangled a young woman, ruthlessly shot two men in the head, then took a nap after each killing as his friends buried the bodies and cleaned up the mess.
Yet, Bulger fumed as a combative Weeks shifted the conversation to Bulger’s duplicity as an FBI informant, when defense attorney J.W. Carney Jr. asked if it bothered him that he played a role in five slayings.
“Yeah, it bothers me,” Weeks said, then alluded to his belated discovery that Bulger and Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi were informants. “Because we killed people that were rats, and I had the two biggest rats right next to me.”
“You suck,” screamed Bulger, whose lawyers have denied he was an informant.
“[Expletive] you, OK,” Weeks, 57, screamed.
“[Expletive] you, too,” Bulger yelled back.
“What do you want to do?” yelled Weeks, jumping to his feet as several deputy US marshals prepared to pounce if either man made a move toward the other.
“Hey,” Judge Denise J. Casper shouted from the bench as startled jurors and spectators watched Bulger, looking more grandfatherly than gangsterish, turn away from Weeks, who resumed his seat in the stand.
“Mr. Bulger, let your attorneys speak for you,” Casper said, then admonished Weeks to just answer the questions.
The heated exchange came near the end of a day in which Weeks testified about horrific crimes he committed with Bulger in the 1980s after the older gangster took him under his wing and groomed him to be his right-hand man as they made millions from drug dealing, extortion, and other crimes.
Bulger, who was arrested two years ago in Santa Monica, Calif., after 16 years on the run, is charged in a sweeping racketeering indictment with participating in 19 murders, extortion, money laundering, and stockpiling weapons. At one point, at an unusual defense request, Weeks stood in the middle of the courtroom identifying some of the high-powered weapons prosecutors say belonged to Bulger.
Weeks, who began cooperating with authorities after his racketeering arrest in 1999, served just five years for being an accessory to five murders. He is one of the government’s most critical witnesses against Bulger and in 2000 led investigators to a secret grave across from Florian Hall in Dorchester where the remains of three of Bulger’s alleged victims were found.
Testifying for a second day, Weeks said he stood guard as Bulger killed Arthur “Bucky” Barrett, 45; Deborah Hussey, 26; and John McIntyre, 32, on separate occasions inside the same house at 799 East Third St. in South Boston. Their bodies were buried in the dirt cellar. When the house was being sold, they were exhumed and buried on Halloween night 1985 near Florian Hall.
Barrett was a safecracker suspected in a 1980 bank burglary. According to Weeks, Bulger lured Barrett to the South Boston home in July 1983 under the guise of selling him diamonds. Bulger and Flemmi held Barrett at gunpoint, chained him to a chair, and interrogated him for hours about where his money was, Weeks said.
Barrett made his wife leave their Quincy home with their children while Bulger and Flemmi seized $47,000 he had stashed there, Weeks said, adding that he collected another $10,000 from Little Rascals, a Boston bar that Barrett co-owned.
After gathering the money, according to Weeks, Bulger announced, “Bucky is going to go downstairs and lie down for awhile.”
Bulger shot Barrett in the head with a Mac-10, then took a nap while Weeks and Flemmi buried the body in the basement, Weeks said.
A year later, Weeks said, corrupt FBI agent John Connolly Jr. warned Bulger and Flemmi that McIntyre, a Quincy fisherman, was cooperating with authorities and had implicated the pair in an unsuccessful plot to ship guns to the Irish Republican Army aboard the trawler Valhalla. McIntyre was also suspected of providing information that led to the seizure of a ship loaded with marijuana in Boston Harbor.
McIntyre was lured to the South Boston home, according to Weeks, where he was greeted by Bulger, Flemmi, and Weeks. He, too, was chained to a chair and interrogated for hours.
Bulger wrapped a rope around McIntyre’s neck and tried to strangle him, but it was too thick, Weeks said.
“Do you want one to the back of the head?” Bulger asked.
“Yes, please,” McIntyre responded.
Bulger shot him in the head, Weeks said.
Weeks testified that he was nervous when Bulger asked to meet him at the same South Boston house in January 1985, but relieved when he was told Flemmi would be there with Deborah Hussey, the daughter of Flemmi’s longtime girlfriend, Marion Hussey.
“She was a girl; she wasn’t a criminal,” Weeks said. He was coming out of an upstairs bathroom, Weeks testified, when he heard a thud and saw Bulger on the ground with his legs wrapped around Hussey, choking her. He said Flemmi thought Hussey was still alive, so used a stick and a rope to strangle her some more.
Weeks said he, Bulger, and Flemmi relocated the remains of Barrett, McIntyre, and Hussey.
Weeks also testified that Bulger boasted of his role in other murders and confessed to being present in 1981 when Flemmi’s 26-year-old girlfriend, Debra Davis, was strangled inside another home in South Boston.
Bulger, according to Weeks, told him Flemmi put duct tape around Davis’s mouth and hair, kissed her on the forehead, and said, “You’re going to a better place.”
Weeks said Bulger never told him who strangled Davis, so he doesn’t know whether Flemmi’s claim that it was Bulger is true.
During cross-examination, Carney focused on Bulger’s relationship with the FBI.
Weeks acknowledged that one of Bulger’s favorite expressions was “Christmas is for cops and kids” and that Bulger routinely gave expensive gifts and envelopes stuffed with cash to some 30 corrupt agents and officers. Connolly, the former FBI agent serving a 40-year prison term for murder, warned Bulger to flee in December 1994 because he was about to be indicted, Weeks said. He agreed Bulger was also tipped to investigations by law enforcement.
Weeks said that Bulger often preached about how much he hated informants. And he admitted that he never suspected Bulger was an informant until the FBI acknowledged it in 1998.
Bulger’s lawyers say that he paid agents for information and that Connolly fabricated Bulger’s informant file to cover up their corrupt relationship. Prosecutors introduced Bulger’s file into evidence.
Weeks seemed melancholy as he said Bulger “treated me great” and acknowledged that it was difficult to testify against the man who had been like a brother to him. “I was hoping he’d never be caught so he wouldn’t be in this circus right now,” Weeks said.
But Weeks grew belligerent and threatening as Carney accused him of lying, challenged his motivation for cooperating, and suggested that Weeks, not Bulger, was a rat.
“You can’t rat on a rat,” said Weeks, adding that he lives in South Boston and walks the streets without being called a rat.
When Carney asked Weeks what he would do if someone did call him a rat, Weeks snapped that if he stepped outside the courthouse he’d show him.
Weeks, who had provided fake identification to Bulger while he was on the run but had not seen him in 17 years until this week, finished testifying shortly after their heated exchange. He didn’t look at his old partner before briskly walking out of the courtroom.
Bulger, who occasionally made eye contact with Weeks while he was on the stand, did not bother to look up.
Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.