Bulger judge: He caused ‘unfathomable harm’

In terms of my reasons for this sentence, Mr. Bulger, it is hard to know where to begin. Do I begin in 1972, over 40 years ago, when the racketeering conspiracy of which you stand convicted began? Or do I begin in late 1994, early 1995 when you fled Massachusetts upon learning of the impending charges against you? Or on June 22, 2011 when you were finally arrested after approximately 16 years as a fugitive from justice? Or do I simply begin with a recitation of the names of the people you’ve now been found by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt to have murdered: Mr. Paul McGonagle, Mr. Edward Connors, Mr. Thomas King, Mr. Richard Castucci, Mr. Roger Wheeler, Mr. Brian Halloran, Mr. Michael Donahue, Mr. John Callahan, Mr. Arthur Barrett, Mr. John McIntyre, and Ms. Deborah Hussey, or the numbers of others who I won’t name at this moment whom you and your associates put in fear of loss of life or serious harm to advance your own financial goals and criminal enterprise?


The scope, the callousness, the depravity of your crimes are almost unfathomable. As the presiding judge, I was certainly aware of the range of criminal allegations against you before the trial began, but even so, even having some sense of the subject matter to expect at this trial, the testimony of human suffering that you and your associates inflicted on others was at times agonizing to hear and painful to watch.


At times during the trial I wished that we were watching a movie, that what we were hearing was not real, but as the families of the victims here know too well, it was not a movie. At trial we were hearing about the real inhumane things that human beings did to other human beings, seemingly without remorse and without regret.

Get Fast Forward in your inbox:
Forget yesterday's news. Get what you need today in this early-morning email.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Moreover, the upshot of all of the evidence at trial was that at base the motivation for your entire criminal enterprise was money: Money and extorting more money; money in threatening or harming those who didn’t pay up to you or, in your estimation, didn’t pay up enough; money in dominating the drug trade in South Boston; money being laundered through businesses that you controlled in the names of others; money in coopting certain law enforcement officers and agents; and money in killing people who might bring down your organization for cooperating with legitimate law enforcement officers. Your crimes, in my estimation, are made all the more heinous because they were all about money.

Mr. Bulger, I don’t doubt for a second that you’re an intelligent person, intelligent enough to prey upon those who had no legal recourse. You extorted money from other criminals, large-scale drug dealers, bookmakers, loan sharks whom you convinced needed your protection, and those who were otherwise beholden to you. By the time you extorted money from legitimate businessmen, your reputation for violence and for having coopted law enforcement was so well-established that they also found themselves with no recourse and could only comply with your demands.

But make no mistake, it takes no business acumen to take money from folks at the end of a gun, no business acumen to shove a machine gun in the groin of Mr. Solimando or place a shotgun in Mr. Buccheri’s mouth. It’s not savvy, it’s not being shrewd, it’s not being resourceful, it’s what anyone can get at the end of a gun. Very few, thankfully, choose to do so, but you and those at your direction did.

I certainly cannot convey the true nature of your crimes without discussing the nature and circumstances of murders you’ve now been found by the jury beyond a reasonable doubt to have committed. I will not recount the grim and gruesome details of these 11 murders, but I will only note that we heard at trial about the brutal manner in which each of these victims was killed. Some were tortured at length and then killed, some were shot at close range, some were ambushed in a hail of bullets or otherwise executed. Each of these lives came to an unceremonious end at your hands or at the hands of others at your direction. And as if that unceremonious end was not enough, we heard how these victims’ bodies were left to expire at the scene of the crime, stuffed in a trunk, or in a few instances, buried at the beach or in a basement, only to be later unearthed and reburied in a field. Unfathomable acts conducted in unfathomable ways.


The pain and suffering that the families of these victims have endured was communicated very movingly yesterday and in the letters that I’ve received and reviewed. These family members recounted that even after all these many years, many are still picking up the pieces left in the large wake of your horrific acts, or as one family member put it, as a result of the persistent, unyielding, and unpredictable brutality that you and others inflicted.

Loss of a loved one is pain enough, but to lose a loved one to violence, to murder, is unimaginable, and I thank these family members for their attempts to put that pain into words for me. Their loss was made all the more unimaginable, Mr. Bulger, because these families had to wait years, decades, to know what end their loved ones met, and in some cases to bury them with the respect that everyone who meets their end in life deserves.


I certainly cannot conclude a discussion of your personal background without discussing how you spent 16 years of your life before your arrest on the charges in this case in

2011. Sir, you chose to be a fugitive from justice. You remained a fugitive for 16 years. In the meantime, for the lives of the victims’ families, milestone after milestone was passed without their loved ones. Instead of, sir, remaining in Massachusetts to answer these charges in a timely fashion and pressing the defenses that you presented to this jury and your arguments that you presented to this Court, you remained a fugitive, traveling and living in various locations under various identities until 2011. Then, you were finally apprehended in a residence with walls that even after 16 years on the run contained over $822,000 in cash. Whatever righteousness you claim in your defenses is surely undermined by your being on the run for such a long time. And all of the signs in your Santa Monica apartment, the large sums of cash, the IDs in multiple names, and the firearms, suggest that you intended to remain a fugitive for all time.


Mr. Bulger, I do also feel compelled at this juncture to say something about what has now become your repeated position, that your trial was a sham. It will certainly be for another court, another court in this building, in fact, to rule on the correctness of my legal rulings, but there’s nothing about the consideration I gave those legal issues and the protection of your rights as a criminal defendant, the excellent advocacy that you received in your defense, the verdict that was rendered by this jury, and the respect that I have shown you from day one in these proceedings that was a sham. You can call it what you want, but in my humble estimation, you received the fair and full trial that every defendant in this country is entitled to.


Let me begin by saying you did not accomplish many of your crimes by yourself. You had co-defendants, some of whom I’ve mentioned and some of whom testified against you. You had associates, and, yes, you had -- certainly had some well-placed law enforcement officers on your payroll and in your pocket. Others are not blameless in the wrong that has been done here. There is culpability to go all around, but you, sir, are the only defendant before me, and it is your sentence that I have to determine. I must impose a just, fair, and adequate sentence for your crimes and your responsibility for these crimes.


I have also struggled with what would ever be just punishment for the unfathomable harm that you have caused, and I know that any sentence I impose will be cold comfort for the losses that so many have suffered.

Much ink has been spilled about you, Mr. Bulger, your impact on the city, on South Boston in particular, your flight, and this trial. I imagine in the wake of this judgment and the close of this criminal case that there will be much more ink written about you, some of which you may solicit and some of which you won’t. You have over time and in certain quarters become a face of this city. That is regrettable. You and others may be deluded into thinking that you represent this city, but you, sir, do not represent this city. This year, 2013, with all that’s happened in this city, the City of Boston, both tragic and triumphant, you and the horrible things that were recounted by your cohorts during the course of this trial do not and should not represent this city.

If anything represents this city from this trial it’s that after an orderly proceeding in which both parties were very well represented by counsel, a jury did the hard work that jurors do and rendered a fair and just verdict that reflected careful review of the evidence and application of the law.

And in the wake of that, Mr. Bulger ... I shall impose a sentence of life imprisonment, plus five years, plus life imprisonment for the counts of the third superseding indictment for which you were convicted.