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Kevin Cullen

A man not worthy of our hate

James "Whitey" Bulger sat in court Wednesday during his sentencing hearing.

Jane Flavell Collins/Associated Press

James "Whitey" Bulger sat in court Wednesday during his sentencing hearing.

Theresa Bond was the last smiling face Bucky Barrett saw before Whitey Bulger put a gun to the back of his head and pulled the trigger 30 years ago. She was, at the time, a little girl. She was, then as now, Barrett’s daughter.

“Mr. Bulger,” Bond said, standing in back of Whitey Bulger in federal court Wednesday morning, “could you please look at me?”

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He could have, but he chose not to. As his victims rose, one by one, to describe how he ruined their lives by murdering their fathers and brothers and husbands and sisters, Whitey Bulger kept his eyes averted, showing not a hint of emotion, taking notes for what he envisions will be a bestseller, his life story.

Undaunted, Bond went on, defying Bulger, speaking for the dead, for Arthur “Bucky” Barrett, a safecracker who died in 1983 because he had money and information that Whitey wanted and because Whitey knew he could murder anyone he wanted and the FBI would protect him.

Whitey had lured Bucky Barrett to a house on East Third Street in South Boston, just a couple of hundred feet away from the front door of Whitey’s politician brother Billy Bulger. Whitey sat Bucky down in a chair at the kitchen table and Whitey’s partner in crime Steve Flemmi wrapped him in chains.

Even as Bucky gave up all the money in his wallet, all the money in his house, all the money he had on the street, he realized that Whitey wouldn’t let him walk out of that house on East Third Street. He sat there, resigned to his fate, alternately praying and looking at his wallet, ripped from his pocket, emptied of its cash, and thrown on the table by the vulture who was Whitey Bulger. The wallet lay open, and Bucky Barrett stared at a photo in one of the plastic compartments. It was a photo of a little girl. His little girl.

“That was me,” Theresa Bond reminded her father’s killer, addressing her comments to the back of Whitey Bulger’s head because he had neither the courage nor the decency to look her in the eye.

“I not only lost my father, who was our family’s rock,” she said. “I lost two of my brothers to suicide.”

Bucky Barrett’s boys never recovered from growing up without their dad. Throwing themselves in front of a train was preferable to the pain they felt.

But even as Whitey Bulger ignored her and all the pain inside Judge Denise Casper’s courtroom, Theresa Bond found a weapon to use against him.

“I just want you to know that I don’t hate you,” she told him. “I don’t have that authority. That would be judging you. I do hate the choices that you’ve made, along with your associates, but more so, I hate the choices our government has made to allow you to rule the streets and perform such horrific acts of evil.”

When she was finished with him, Bond left Whitey Bulger with this: “Mr. Bulger, do you have remorse for taking my father’s life? I think you do. I forgive you.”

Her words were like a stiletto, the thin but lethal knife Whitey always kept in easy reach. Eddie Connor’s son Tim swung a verbal sledge hammer at Whitey, mentioning the beatings Whitey received from his one-armed father and the rare syndrome that killed Whitey’s only child. Whitey might be able to dismiss such white passion. But it’s harder to dismiss the measured tones of Theresa Bond and Pat Donahue.

Pat Donahue, whose husband Michael was murdered by Whitey with FBI connivance only because he gave a ride to a hoodlum who was shopping Whitey to the FBI, used most of her allotted time not to rail at Whitey or the government that enabled him but to remind everyone that her husband was a good man.

“He was always happy,” Pat Donahue said, a smile on her lips. “He even woke up happy. Really, who does that?”

After dinner, he would help his sons Mike, Shawn, and Tommy with their homework. He was a good husband, a good dad, a good provider, a truck driver always looking for a side job to bring a little more money home to their house in Dorchester.

“I want him to be remembered for the wonderful man he was,” Pat Donahue said, and in doing so she twisted the thin blade in Whitey even more, because Michael Donahue’s decency, the decency of the wife and three boys he left behind in 1982, just made Whitey look more monstrous, more evil, more like what prosecutor Brian Kelly referred to as “a little sociopath.”

Kelly mocked the claim by Whitey’s lawyers that he couldn’t be an FBI informant, because of course being an informer is the worse thing an Irishman could be. Brian Kelly, an Irishman, scoffed.

Whitey’s lawyers refused to rebut anything included in the presentencing report because their client had pronounced his trial and anything associated with it, including his sentencing, a sham.

But the real sham, Kelly insisted, was Whitey’s preposterous denial that he was an FBI informant, the ludicrous insistence that Whitey was given immunity to murder whomever he felt like, all because the FBI just kind of, um, liked him, not that he was their rat.

“He’s a disgrace to the Irish,” Kelly fumed. “Murdering women, killing men who are handcuffed, flooding his own neighborhood with drugs.”

He ruined his own family, Kelly pointed out. Whitey lured brother Jackie into a conspiracy to obtain phony IDs, costing Jackie a felony conviction and his pension as clerk magistrate of the Boston Juvenile Court. Whitey cost brother Billy his job as president of the University of Massachusetts.

And let’s not forget Whitey murdered people in the shadow of that modest white house where his nephews and nieces looked up to him.

When it was all over, Whitey was as figuratively bloodied as his victims, his carefully manicured self-image mutilated and stuffed into a shallow grave like Bucky Barrett and John McIntyre and Debbie Hussey.

But when judge Casper offered him a chance to say something, Whitey rose in his eternal uniform, an orange jumpsuit, and said, simply, “No.”

He would not look at his victims. Why would he speak to them?

He is, as Sean McGonagle, the son of a man he murdered, put it, “just an intellectually, physically, mentally deficient sad, lonely, and irrelevant old man.”

But even as he stands today to learn that he will spend the rest of his miserable life in prison, Whitey Bulger retains a perverse pride, a diffident arrogance, a firm belief that he is a man of principle, no matter how much evidence to the contrary is put before him, no matter how much others’ pain is expressed to him.

He is a small, unctuous man, not worthy of our hate.

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at cullen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeCullen.
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