On Friday, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the convictions of James J. “Whitey” Bulger, the notorious leader of the Winter Hill gang and subject of the recent film Black Mass (starring Johnny Depp and directed by my fellow Hampden-Sydney alum Scott Cooper). Bulger had been indicted on multiple counts of racketeering and of violating federal firearms laws. Notably, Bulger did not challenge the sufficiency of the Government’s evidence against him. Rather, his claims on appeal related chiefly to an alleged immunity agreement between Bulger and Jeremiah O’Sullivan, a former federal prosecutor; and to the testimony of John Martorano, who was involved in many of the gang’s killings and who received a quite favorable deal from the Government in exchange for his cooperation (which proved very helpful to the Feds, and, as the court notes, was key in bringing charges against Bulger, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, and FBI Agents John Connolly and Paul Rico).
Those who enjoyed Black Mass and/or have a special interest in federal organized crime and racketeering prosecutions will likely enjoy giving this case a read. It contains many important details about this sordid story of murder and corruption. The court’s opinion in United States v. Bulger is here.