BOSTON — Former Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger was led off to prison Thursday for the rest of his life, accepting his punishment in stone-faced silence as a judge castigated the 84-year-old gangster for his “almost unfathomable” depravity.
Bulger’s sentencing for his murderous reign in the 1970s and ‘80s brought to a close a sordid case that exposed FBI complicity in his crimes and left a trail of devastated families whose loved ones were killed by Bulger or his henchmen.
Many of the relatives had vented their anger at Bulger during the first day of his sentencing hearing on Wednesday, calling him a “terrorist,” a “punk” and “Satan.”
So when U.S. District Judge Denise Casper announced the punishment — two consecutive life sentences plus five years — there were no shouts of joy or applause from the families, just silence.
Afterward, many said they took some satisfaction in knowing that Bulger will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
“That old bastard is finally going to prison. He’s going to die in prison,” said Tom Donahue, whose father was gunned down by Bulger after he happened to offer a ride home to a man who was Bulger’s actual target.
Bulger, the former boss of the Winter Hill Gang, Boston’s Irish mob, fled the city in 1994 after being tipped off by a former FBI agent that he was about to be indicted. He was a fugitive for more than 16 years until he was captured in Santa Monica, Calif., in 2011.
His disappearance became a major embarrassment for the FBI when it was learned that corrupt Boston agents had taken bribes from Bulger and protected him for years while he worked as an FBI informant, feeding information on the rival New England Mafia.
A jury convicted Bulger in August in a broad racketeering case. He was found guilty in 11 of the 19 killings he was accused of, along with dozens of other gangland crimes, including shakedowns and money laundering.
At his sentencing, the judge read off the names of the 11. She told Bulger she sometimes wished that she and everyone else at his trial were watching a movie because the horrors described — including stranglings and shootings — were so awful.
“The scope, the callousness, the depravity of your crimes are almost unfathomable,” she said before imposing the punishment prosecutors had requested.