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Kevin Cullen

Don’t believe hyperbole in the Bulger trial

Whitey Bulger’s defense began Monday and let’s just say it was not a good day for the defendant. The first guy out of the box, retired FBI supervisor Bob Fitzpatrick, took the stand, ostensibly to bolster Whitey’s claim that he wasn’t an informant.

Now, being an FBI informant is not a crime and it’s not part of the indictment. But Whitey’s obsessed with refuting it because he can’t go to the great prison in the sky allowing everybody to think he’s a rat.

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Under the questioning of Hank Brennan, one of Whitey’s lawyers, Fitzpatrick seemed to help at first. He described meeting Whitey in 1981, six years after he became an informant, as part of the FBI’s routine informant assessment process. And Whitey told him he wasn’t an informant, that he didn’t take money, that he wouldn’t testify against anyone.

So Fitzpatrick recommended closing him out, saying he was an informant in name only. Bingo! Just what Whitey wanted to hear.

But then prosecutor Brian Kelly got up, and his first question on cross-examination is not what Whitey and his lawyers wanted to hear.

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“It’s fair to say that you’re a man who likes to make up stories?” Kelly asked.

It was a sucker punch to the nose, and Fitzpatrick never recovered. In quick succession, Kelly established that Fitzpatrick was fond of embellishment, exaggerating his roles in various high-profile cases.

And worse, at least from Fitzpatrick’s point of view, Kelly used Fitzpatrick’s own book to make the case against him. Kelly showed that Fitzpatrick exaggerated his role in the recovery of the gun used to assassinate Martin Luther King Jr., the arrest of Mafia underboss Jerry Angiulo in 1983, and the recovery of the body of John McIntyre, one of 19 people Whitey is accused of murdering.

Kelly wasn’t done. He demonstrated how Fitzpatrick’s book contained fictionalized dialogue, in which during the moments before McIntyre is killed, Whitey talks to McIntyre in dime-store novel banter. The only thing missing was Kelly delivering it ala Jimmy Cagney: Now see here, copper!

The good news for Whitey is that Kelly only had Fitzpatrick on the witness stand for an hour. The bad news is that Kelly isn’t done with him. Frankly, Kelly could have ended it when he got Fitzpatrick to admit that in his book he called Bulger an informant more than 100 times, not to mention a stone killer and psychopath.

With defense witnesses like these, who needs prosecution witnesses?

I’m assuming Whitey and his lawyers would consider that last line hyperbole and extremely prejudicial. They filed a motion asking Judge Denise Casper to sequester the jury because of commentary they don’t like that has appeared in this newspaper.

They listed 10 “statements” that appeared in what they called “the body of articles from The Boston Globe.” Well, I checked and all of those “statements” came from my columns, not news articles, as the Bulger defense team would have the judge believe.

“The following statements by media columnists have also appeared through a variety of news outlets,” the motion continued.

But like Fitzpatrick’s made-up dialogue, that’s not true. The motion cited three more statements, all of them taken from my columns in the Globe. There is nothing from another media outlet cited.

So is the defense being disingenuous? Or merely hyperbolic? Doesn’t bother me. And by the way, Whitey, it’s nice to know you’re reading.

Casper ordered jurors not to read or view or listen to anything about the case, so the sequestration demand is specious. There is no probable cause to believe anyone has been influenced by anything in the media, let alone one useless columnist at one very useful newspaper.

I figured out what this was really all about when Jay Carney, Whitey’s counsel, got up and described Whitey’s trial as the biggest media event in Boston’s history. Given that the trial can’t be photographed or recorded, that’s preposterous. There were five times as many reporters here for the Boston Marathon bomber’s case, from all over the world.

That motion has Whitey’s ego all over it.

Oh, I’m sorry. Was that hyperbolic and prejudicial?

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at cullen@globe.com.
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