The trial of James “Whitey” Bulger hit another low Tuesday as the gangster, who has been reviled as an alleged killer, FBI informant, and drug dealer, was branded a pedophile by a former associate who testified that as middle-aged men, they both had sexual encounters with teenaged girls.
As Bulger’s lawyer attacked Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi’s credibility by grilling him about his sordid relationship with a teen who had been like a stepdaughter, the aging gangster angrily pointed at Bulger and snarled, “You want to talk about pedophilia, right over there at that table.”
Bulger’s head whipped around to face Flemmi, but he quickly looked away and remained silent, unlike several obscenity-laced outbursts he has made since his racketeering trial began in US District Court in Boston six weeks ago.
“He had a young girlfriend, 16 years old, he took her to Mexico,” said Flemmi, telling jurors that he and Bulger shared a “weakness” for teenaged girls.
It was the first time that a witness has accused Bulger in court of sexual deviancy. During a press conference while Bulger was a fugitive, the FBI called him “a true predator in every sense of the word” and said he was suspected of molesting a number of girls, some as young as 12, in the years before he fled Boston in 1995. But he is not charged with any sexual offenses.
Bulger, 83, who was captured in Santa Monica, Calif., two years ago after more than 16 years on the run, is charged in a sweeping racketeering indictment with participating in 19 murders, extortion, money laundering, and stockpiling guns while overseeing a criminal enterprise that raked in millions of dollars from drug dealing and other crimes over several decades.
Flemmi, 79, who is serving a life sentence for 10 murders and has implicated Bulger in all of them, testified that he lured 26-year-old Deborah Hussey to a South Boston home in early 1985 and watched as Bulger strangled her. Hussey was a toddler when Flemmi moved in with her mother, Marion, and he raised her along with three children he had with her mother.
As one of Bulger’s lawyers, Hank Brennan, questioned him about when he first became attracted to Deborah Hussey, Flemmi appeared flustered and combative as he told jurors they had oral sex twice when she was 16 and he was 40.
“It was an indiscretion on my part,” said Flemmi, testifying that when he started cooperating with authorities in 2003 he did not initially disclose his sexual contact with Deborah Hussey because he was embarrassed by it.
Flemmi admitted during cross-examination that Hussey told her mother about the sexual contact, but he denied it was the reason she was killed.
Hussey was a drug addict, who had been hanging around Triple O’s, a South Boston bar frequented by Bulger, and causing problems, Flemmi said. He said Bulger insisted they kill her because she was an embarrassment.
Flemmi said he took Hussey shopping, then brought her to a house in South Boston where Bulger and two associates, Kevin Weeks and Patrick Nee, were waiting. He said Bulger strangled her with his hands, then they buried her in the basement.
When Brennan confronted Flemmi with his prior testimony in a civil case, in which he said Bulger used a rope while strangling Hussey, Flemmi said he was not sure because he was “in a state of anxiety at the time.”
Flemmi has shown little emotion while describing his role in a litany of gruesome murders, including pulling the teeth of dead victims to hamper efforts to identify them, but suddenly turned squeamish when Brennan asked him to look at a photograph of Hussey’s skull. “I don’t want to see that,” he said.
The defense also attacked Flemmi’s claim that Bulger strangled Flemmi’s girlfriend Debra Davis in 1981 because she knew the two of them were FBI informants and was considered a liability.
Davis was a teenager when Flemmi began having sexual relations with her; she was 17 and he was pushing 40.
Flemmi admitted that Davis had met another man but denied that he killed her out of jealousy because she was leaving him.
Flemmi admitted he had Bulger tap the phone at the house in Randolph he shared with Davis to listen to her calls but said she did not say anything that raised concerns.
The defense focused on numerous inconsistencies in Flemmi’s account of how and precisely when Davis died. Flemmi said Bulger strangled her upstairs and though she was dead when they dragged her downstairs, Flemmi said he blurted out “let her pray” because he was in a “semi-traumatic state.”
After they buried Davis along the banks of the Neponset River in Quincy, Flemmi told her mother that he had hired a private investigator to look for her.
“When you murder someone you try to cover it up,” Flemmi told Brennan with a wry smile. “You should know that. You’re an attorney.”