In South Boston Monday, there was relief, but little surprise, as word came down that James J. “Whitey” Bulger had been convicted in a vast racketeering case, including 11 murders. The people of South Boston did not need a jury to tell them that Bulger was as bad as advertised.
“He did so many things, and there were so many counts against him, you knew he was going to be found guilty of something,” said Bobby Grubb, who said he knew Bulger well. As the 56-year-old waited for a bus at Broadway Station, he was standing across the street from the site of Triple O’s, the bar that was the notorious hangout for Bulger and his crew. It is now a sushi bar, across from a brand new Starbucks.
Bulger’s conviction may be a symbolic end to the “old Southie,” a capstone to an era when the community was known more for its shadiness than its sushi.
But the guilty verdict, for many who lived through Bulger’s reign, was merely a formality.
“The Whitey era ended a long time ago,” said Eunice Farrell, 65, of Dorchester, as she walked around Castle Island, another favorite haunt of Bulger and his crew.
“Thank goodness they found him guilty. When I was a kid, he was like a hero, sort of. There were a lot of people that bought into the idea that he was keeping things in line in Southie. And when he first started out, maybe he kept things in line. But he was a narcissist, and it went to his head. He was no hero. He was a criminal.”
While there was no surprise that Bulger was found guilty of racketeering, many were disappointed that the jury failed to find him guilty of all 19 murders in the indictment.
“I don’t think this is closure, because he wasn’t convicted on all the charges,” Tammy Hingston, a native of South Boston, said as she picked her son up from sailing lessons at Castle Island. “It will never feel over for some people.”
Those who had been following the trial closely said the jury had a tall order, sifting through weeks of testimony and a host of charges.
“That would have been a tough jury to be on,” 76-year-old David Welz of Newton said as he sat in the sun at Castle Island. “And the prosecution was relying on the testimony of three convicted murderers. That’s a tough thing to hang a case on.”
Paul Ware of Rockland, who was sitting on a bench at Castle Island, said the problem with seeking closure with the verdict is the nagging feeling that Bulger could never possibly pay for all he has wrought.
“Deep down, we’ll always feel he got away with more than he should have,” the 64-year-old said. “He had a long run, and you have to wonder how bad his life is in prison.”
“It’s such a waste of money, this trial, all the police escorts,” said his friend, Rich Fahey, 70, of Weymouth. “He was a bad seed for South Boston.”
For all the analysis of the trial and the jury’s decision, there was satisfaction in knowing that the 83-year-old Bulger will live out his days in prison.
“I used to see him here all the time, walking with his gang,” John Greene, 85, said as he strolled on Castle Island. “Now, he’s all done. He’ll never get out. He’ll never walk here again.”Billy Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @billy baker.