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Prosecutors recommend life sentence for Bulger

James “Whitey” Bulger was convicted in August of killing 11 people in the 1970s and 1980s and operating a racketeering enterprise that was involved in drug trafficking, extortion and money laundering.Reuters/HANDOUT

Federal prosecutors argued Thursday that notorious gangster James “Whitey” Bulger has no redeeming qualities and should be sentenced next week to life in prison for killing 11 people while running a sprawling criminal enterprise.

“There are no mitigating factors, and defendant Bulger has no redeeming qualities, which would justify any sentence below the one called for by the US Sentencing Guidelines and the applicable case law and statutes,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed Thursday in federal court in Boston.

US District Court Judge Denise J. Casper will hear from defense lawyers, prosecutors, and the families of Bulger’s victims on Nov. 13 and sentence the gangster the following day. Bulger, 84, who did not take the stand during his eight-week trial last summer, will be offered an opportunity to speak before he is sentenced.


Bulger was convicted in August on 31 counts of racketeering, money laundering, extortion, and illegal possession of handguns and machine guns. Jurors found that while running a racketeering enterprise between 1972 and 2000, Bulger participated in drug trafficking and 11 murders, including the strangulation of Deborah Hussey, 26, and the slayings of several FBI informants, a Tulsa businessman, and an innocent bystander.

Jurors found that prosecutors failed to prove that Bulger participated in seven additional murders he was accused of and were unable to reach a verdict on allegations that he strangled a second woman, 26-year-old Debra Davis.

Davis’s brother, Steve, said he is looking forward to the final phase of Bulger’s case and hopes the judge will allow him to speak during the sentencing hearing, even though Bulger was not convicted of his sister’s slaying.

“I just want to get it done and over with and put the whole thing behind me,” Davis said “I want to erase that whole chapter in my life of what he put us all through. If I can do that with a few minutes of speech and he goes and curls up and dies in his jail cell, I’m fine with that.”


Bulger, the South Boston crime boss who fled just before his 1995 indictment and became a fixture on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list, was captured in Santa Monica, Calif., in June 2011 after more than 16 years on the run.

In their memorandum, prosecutors called Bulger one of the most violent and despicable criminals in Boston history and said sentencing guidelines call for a mandatory life prison term for his conviction on racketeering counts that involve multiple murders.

In addition, Bulger faces a mandatory consecutive life sentence for his conviction on a charge of possessing machine guns while committing violent crimes, prosecutors said.

“Presiding over a massive criminal enterprise, Bulger extorted dozens of individuals, flooded South Boston with cocaine, shot innocent people, strangled women, murdered his competitors, corrupted FBI agents, and then ran away and hid for 16 years when he was finally indicted,” prosecutors wrote. They argued that Bulger deserved no mercy and urged the judge to sentence him to life in prison, followed by another life sentence for possession of machine guns and a five-year sentence for possession of handguns.

Bulger’s lawyers could not be reached for comment Thursday. They have said Bulger will appeal his conviction, arguing that he should have been allowed during the trial to present his claim that a deceased former prosecutor promised him immunity from prosecution decades ago for all crimes, including murder.


The defense spent much of the trial trying to persuade jurors that Bulger was not an informant, despite a hefty FBI file indicating that he was. Bulger’s lawyers argued that Bulger paid corrupt FBI agents for information and that his so-called handler, John J. Connolly Jr., fabricated his file to cover up their corrupt relationship.

Prosecutors said in their memorandum that Bulger chose to go to trial and play an elaborate game of ‘Let’s Pretend,’ by claiming that he was not an informant and had been given immunity. They said he declined to offer any proof prior to trial of his claim that he had immunity.

Prosecutors said Bulger also tried to block members of the news media from covering his trial by listing reporters “whom he most despised” — including Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen, Shelley Murphy, Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr, and former Boston Globe reporter Dick Lehr — as defense witnesses and asking that they be sequestered. After the judge refused to sequester the reporters, which would have prohibited them from attending the trial, the defense dropped them as witnesses.

Prosecutors have urged the judge to order a $25.2 million judgment against the gangster, which would allow prosecutors to seize all his current assets, including nearly $822,000 seized from his California apartment, and any future profits he might make to satisfy the judgment.

The government has said it will distribute the money among the familiesof Bulger’s victims and the gangster’s extortion victims. But some families are urging the judge to appoint an independent investigator to track Bulger’s assets and distribute them.


Shelley Murphy can be reached at Shelley.Murphy@globe.com.