If Whitey Bulger’s trial was a prize fight, Bob Fitzpatrick would not have been allowed to get back on the witness stand Tuesday because Brian Kelly had TKO’d him the day before.
Alas, it is a trial and this a free country, so Kelly, the prosecutor, was allowed to use Fitzpatrick, a retired FBI supervisor, as a virtual punching bag for another couple of hours Tuesday, showing him to be something of a fabulist.
It was like watching a bar fight, when one guy goes down and the other guy starts kicking him in the face. It was ugly.
Kelly read from Fitzpatrick’s book, “Betrayal,” which contains made-up dialogue between Whitey and others. He read a scene that describes Fitzpatrick standing there when investigators dug up the body of John McIntyre, one of 19 people Whitey is charged with murdering.
Except Fitzpatrick wasn’t there. It’s made up.
The sad thing is Fitzpatrick really did realize that Whitey was playing the FBI for fools, taking their protection and giving very little in return. But he was an incredibly flawed witness. That said, hardly anyone is coming out of this trial looking good. With few exceptions — namely the family members of Whitey’s victims — everybody is coming off that witness stand bruised and bloodied.
It seems incredible but undeniably true that Fitzpatrick, who spent his life locking up bad guys, was more discredited on the witness stand than all the killers and thugs and drug dealers who cut deals to testify against Whitey for the prosecution.
Kelly was almost in danger of looking like a bully as he laid haymaker after haymaker on Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick didn’t do himself any favors when he kept saying he couldn’t remember things he testified to as recently as the day before.
When Kelly asked him if he had problems with his memory, Fitzpatrick delivered this gem: “Not that I recall.”
Some jurors were actually laughing at Fitzpatrick; not exactly what the defense wanted from its first witness.
Fitzpatrick refused to accept that taking a $15,000 paycut and a job that was a lower grade amounted to a demotion, even when Kelly showed him a document about the reduction in salary and rank. Fitzpatrick appeared delusional. It was, in all the years and all the trials I’ve been to, the most bizarre performance by any witness I’ve ever seen.
You said Whitey was bribing FBI agents and others in law enforcement, and yet you did nothing about it, Kelly noted.
“I didn’t use the word ‘bribe,’” Fitzpatrick said. “He was paying people.”
That’s a bribe, Kelly suggested.
“It could be just a payoff,” Fitzpatrick replied, sounding like Yogi Berra in one of those Aflac ads.
At that point, VB, the Fox 25 commentator, leaned over to me and said in a stage whisper, “Kelly should ask Fitzpatrick what Whitey asked John McIntyre before he shot him: Do you want one in the head?”
But Kelly was in no mood to put Fitzpatrick out of his misery, and Fitzpatrick didn’t act as if it was misery. He seemed to enjoy the whole debacle. He said he’s writing another book. VB suggested he call it “Memory Betrayal.”
The defense could go through all its witnesses in the next couple of days. Which brings us to the only question that matters at this point: Is Whitey going to take the stand?
Now, from the moment his lawyer Jay Carney made a big deal last year insisting his client would take the stand, I’ve been of the mind that Whitey’s ego was too big for him to go out without saying anything.
But in an opening statement in which he copped to many of the charges, Carney didn’t say anything about Whitey testifying. Of course, that was just being prudent, in case something came up at trial that would make it unwise for Whitey to take the stand.
Tony Cardinale, a great lawyer who is among the few heroes in this saga for helping to force the FBI to admit it was protecting Whitey as its informant, has been adamant that Whitey wouldn’t testify.
“He doesn’t want prosecutors asking him about his ratting out his bank robbery accomplices in 1956,” said Cardinale.
Good point, as usual, from Tony. But what’s to prevent Whitey from getting on the stand and, under the gentle questioning of his lawyer, giving his sanitized, ridiculous version of not being an informant; of not killing those two women, Debra Davis and Deborah Hussey; and then simply refusing to submit himself to cross-examination?
What are they going to do? Threaten him with contempt? Whitey knows he’s going to die in prison. His lawyer has admitted to enough charges to convict him of racketeering.
So why not thumb his nose at a criminal justice system that he always maintained was crooked anyway?
It would be a very Whitey thing to do.Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.