Monthly Archives: June 2011

Thursday Morning: Bulger Wants Two Cases Merged Into One

Published June 30, 2011

In what is surely merely a preview of the complex court maneuvering to come, James “Whitey” Bulger is expected to face two court hearings today in front of two separate judges debating two distinct legal aspects of the fledgling case against him.

A lawyer for Bulger yesterday argued to consolidate the racketeering and murder cases against his client. Peter Krupp accused the government of “forum shopping” and moved to dismiss the less serious racketeering charges. Bulger will appear in front of U.S. District Court Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf this afternoon to discuss possibly consolidating the cases. Later, Bulger will appear in front of a magistrate judge to discuss if the public will pay for Bulger’s defense.

A woman’s dead body apparently lay at the bottom of a state-run pool in Fall River for two days without lifeguards or swimmers noticing. The Department of Conversation and Recreation closed all deep-water swimming pools while it grapples to understand the death of 36-year-old Marie Joseph.

The federal government will have to reimburse Massachusetts fishermen for legal fees incurred fighting officials from the National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration if Sen. John Kerry has his way. The Commerce Department ruled that NOAA regulators levied excessive penalties in many cases.

Disgraced former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi can continue to collect his pension thanks to a ruling by a Massachusetts Superior Court judge. DiMasi, who is scheduled to be sentenced on corruption charges in September, will have to continue to fight for the pension after he’s put in jail.

A Boston-bound plane was forced to make an emergency landing at an airfield in Nebraska last night after a possible engine fuel leak was discovered. Passengers on the San Francisco to Boston flight boarded a different United plane after a three hour delay and arrived safely in Boston.

First Lady Michelle Obama is scheduled to visit Boston today as part of a fundraising trip for President Obama’s reelection campaign.

Transportation Security Administration union representatives in Boston claim that radiation from full-body scanners are responsible for a “cancer cluster” among airport security workers. The union representatives claim that the TSA failed to monitor radiation exposure among its employees.

What we’re following: We’ll continue to report on declining foreclosure numbers, a bill that would legalize fireworks sales and the strike-averting deal between bus drivers and the city of Boston.

Stern, Cooper May Not Represent Bulger After All

Published June 29, 2011

After appearing in court yesterday, many assumed that a pair of high-profile attorneys were poised to form the defense team for reputed mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger. But it’s still unclear if Max Stern and Howard Cooper will actually end up taking the case.

The Globe reported this morning that Stern and Cooper had agreed to take the case if Bulger was granted court-appointed counsel. Since then, however, veteran court observer David Frank reported in a blog post for Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly that the duo may actually not end up with the job.

The issue, it seems, may lie in which judge tries the case.

Prosecutors announced yesterday that they dropped a racketeering indictment against Bulger from 1994 in an effort to focus on the 19 murder charges it leveled against the accused mobster in 1999.

The 1999 murder indictments are currently assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns, according to Frank. Bulger has been appearing in front of U.S. District Court Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf.

If Wolf doesn’t end up trying the case, Stern and Cooper may not end up being Bulger’s laywers, Frank wrote in the post:

In the event the Bulger case remains in Wolf’s session, Cooper and Stern will be appointed, the source tells Lawyers Weekly.

However, if it goes to Stearns and U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne B. Bowler, the source says it is unlikely the pair would be assigned to the case.

On Radio Boston yesterday, Frank said that Stern and Cooper were highly respected in the Boston legal community and that both of the layers had in the past been named “Lawyer of the Year” by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.

Wednesday Morning: Some Suspected Bulger’s California Hideout

Published June 29, 2011

Most of the world was stunned last week when the FBI announced it had arrested reputed mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger in Santa Monica, Calif. But at least one person wasn’t that surprised.

WBUR’s David Boeri went out to California 11 years ago to follow up on tips he’d received that Bulger was in the area. WBUR even learned that one tip that the FBI received five years ago came from a spot just four blocks from where Bulger was eventually found. Check out this video from Boeri’s 2000 report.

Two prominent Boston lawyers are poised to form Bulger’s defense team. Howard Cooper and Max Stern haven’t yet been officially assigned to the case but have agreed to represent the alleged mobster, according to the Globe.

In other alleged-organized-crime-member-returned-to-Boston-from-the-West news: Enrico Ponzo, allegedly a former Boston mafia member who was captured in Idaho in March, reportedly posed as a white supremacist in order to fit in in the rural area in which he was living.

The Boston City City Council last night urged that the Boston police be granted authority to patrol Massport land. Currently, Massport land — which includes airports and tunnels, but also waterfront areas like Carson Beach in South Boston — falls under State Police jurisdiction. No one from the State Police showed up to the City Council meeting.

A Superior Court judge is considering a request to halt pension payments to former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, following his corruption conviction.

Westborough-based BJ’s Wholesale Club is set to be sold to a venture capital firm in a $2.8 billion deal. A BJ’s spokesman told the Boston Business Journal that he doesn’t expect layoffs at this point.

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee made the Red Sox look like a local Little League team last night, pitching his third-straight complete game shutout in a row. The Sox’ bats were quiet in the 5-0 loss, as the team mustered just two hits.

What we’re following: We’ll continue to report on Boston Mayor Thomas Menino’s proposal to ban motorized dirt bikes, the decline in mortgage delinquencies in Greater Boston and a new economic deal between the state and Israel.

Shhh…Commuter Rail ‘Quiet Cars’ Go System-Wide

Published June 28, 2011



If you’re looking for that little moment of peace and quiet in your hectic day, just head over to…the T?

The MBTA opened “quiet cars” on all 13 commuter rail lines this morning. During rush hours on the car closest to the locomotive, passengers will be asked to keep conversations to a minimum or at library volume, according to Richard Davey, MBTA general manager.

The MBTA unveiled the “quiet car” during a pilot program that ran from January to April of this year. Now, it is expanding the program due to popular demand.

“We did a poll of customers on both the Fitchburg and Franklin lines, which is where we did our pilot program earlier this year,” Davey said. “Eighty-five, almost 90 percent came back and said it was a great program and we should seek to roll it out system-wide.”

Like a library, you won’t be able to use your cellphone on the “quiet cars.” No word yet, though, on whether there will be designated shushers or that one guy who insists on eating crunchy potato chips.

If the idea of a quiet car on the T doesn’t freak you out enough, you’ll also have to watch out for mimes.

“MBCR, our commuter rail contractor, came up with that clever marketing idea and they’ll have a couple of mimes out tonight just to let folks know that this, in fact, is being launched throughout the system,” Davey said.

What do you think, is this a great idea? How is it going? Get on the “quiet car” and tweet us your thoughts @WBUR…if you dare.

Tuesday Morning: Maybe You Did See ‘Whitey’

Published June 28, 2011

Dismissed as fantasies or mirages, some of the hundreds of James “Whitey” Bulger sightings that have been reported in the Boston-area since he skipped town ahead of an indictment in 1995 may have actually been real. According to court documents, the reputed former mob boss told investigators that he had visited Boston several times while on the lam to “take care of some unfinished business.”

Bulger’s girlfriend, Catherine Greig, hired high-profile defense attorney Kevin Reddington yesterday to represent her in court. Meanwhile, prosecutors and Bulger’s defense team continue to wrangle over whether the public should foot the bill for Bulger’s representation. Should the judge order him to, it may be difficult for Bulger to find a private practice lawyer because the case will be so difficult.

A young boy, perhaps as young as four-years-old, was shot and seriously wounded at a park in Dorchester last night. Police are looking for teens on motorized scooters that might be responsible.

Lawyers for Salvatore DiMasi are attempting to protect DiMasi’s pension payments after the former House speaker was convicted on corruption charges earlier this month.

You think your commute is bad? There could be a “traffic meltdown” on a congested stretch of Route 128 in the next 10-20 years, according to a local planning agency. Yikes.

In other commuting news, the T rolled out “quiet cars” on all 13 commuter rail lines yesterday. Passengers riding in the the cars located nearest the locomotive will be required to refrain from conversations above a whisper during peak commuting hours in an effort to bring “civility and sereneness” to the daily commute, according to MBTA General Manager Richard Davey.

Boston Mayor Tom Menino said that a threatened strike by the city’s unionized part-time bus drivers would hurt disabled kids the most.

What we’re following: We’ll continue to report on a Beacon Hill summit devoted to driving down health care costs, the Holyoke fire chief who allegedly prank-called his own fire station and new methods of evaluating local teachers.

Monday Morning: Bulger’s Crimes Continue To Reverberate

Published June 27, 2011

As Boston continues to process “Whitey” Bulger’s arrest, the families of his alleged victims are looking for closure. Shawn Donahue, whose father Michael was allegedly gunned down by Bulger or one of his associates almost 30 years ago, hopes that he’ll finally be able to confront Bulger about his father’s death.

Now that he’s in custody, Bulger may name names in a final effort toward settling old scores. He’s an old-school mobster, the Herald said, who offered his longtime girlfriend Catherine Greig a glamorous life on the lam. Of course, pop culture loves a seamy Boston mob boss.

The Bulger case is a throwback to the old days when warring Irish and Italian mafia gangs fought over Boston’s turf. While the Boston mob may still exist, it’s only a shell of it’s former self.

In non-Bulger news, the MFA agreed to pay restitution to the heir of a Jewish art dealer killed at Auschwitz. The museum believes that a 17th-century Dutch painting in its stores may have been acquired from Walter Westfeld under questionable circumstances.

Hundreds of cameras are set to start recording on MBTA buses in the coming months. Rich Davey, the MBTA’s general manager, said that it should help make the T system safer.

Social programs in Massachusetts may get a boost in funding. Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration is considering several plans for “social impact bonds” that would allow investors to fund social programs and realize profits based on their successes.

What we’re following: We’ll continue to report on the reverberations in the Bulger case, the state’s mosquito testing program and the progress on the state budget.

Eyewitness: ‘It Was Absolutely Bulger I Saw’ In 2006

Published June 24, 2011

Past Southern California sightings and tips that were never followed may well have been right: It was Whitey.

One of the best of the hundreds of Bulger sightings people have called in to me over the years was from a law enforcement guy in San Diego a couple of years ago.

Now that Bulger’s been arrested in California, where’s he’s said to have lived for years, that call and others warrant a second look.

“What do his legs look like?” was the first question out of the guy’s mouth. The guy he’d seen was wearing shorts.

Check out the article I wrote for the Boston Phoenix in 2007. Now consider the phone call I got Thursday morning, the morning after Bulger was arrested in California not far from where I had last heard from the cop back in 2007.

Here’s the message:

Hey. It’s your buddy in sunny San Diego, where crime bosses wear shorts and walk around downtown. What comes around, goes around, huh buddy?

Having seen our photo of Bulger being booked Thursday, my “buddy” says he’s absolutely the same guy who was wearing shorts that day in San Diegeo at the premiere of the movie “The Departed.”

You can’t make this stuff up.


Family Wants To Face ‘Whitey’ Bulger In Court

Published June 24, 2011

When James “Whitey” Bulger is arraigned in Boston federal court Friday afternoon, the Donahue family will be there. “After all these years of waiting,” Patricia Donahue said, “We need to see this man brought to justice. We need to be there.”

Patricia Donahue, wife of an alleged victim of "Whitey" Bulger, outside federal court in Boston on Friday (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Patricia Donahue, wife of an alleged victim of "Whitey" Bulger, outside federal court in Boston on Friday (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Donahue’s husband, Michael, was murdered in 1982. His son Tommy had just made his first Communion. To celebrate, Donahue was going to take his son fishing. He’d been on the South Boston waterfront that day getting supplies for the trip. He’d stepped into a bar for a drink, and when he left, he was with Brian Halloran.

Halloran was a criminal who had tried to turn in Whitey Bulger. He’d asked Donahue for a ride. When they got into the car, men who’d been waiting, allegedly including Bulger, fired a hail of bullets into the car.

“There was more than one trigger man,” Tommy Donahue said. “So hopefully now, with Whitey Bulger getting arrested, he can rat out the other people who were there.”

The Donahues have seen Bulger’s recent mugshot. It hardened their resolve to see Bulger face-to-face in court.

“Don’t be thrown off by that old frail man smiling there,” Tommy said, “My family always said that if anyone ever lives to get charged, we will represent my father to the fullest.”

Hear more of the interview with the Donahue family, Friday on Radio Boston.

It’s Not The Same Boston Whitey Left In 1994

Published June 23, 2011

When James “Whitey” Bulger returns to the city he lorded over as Boston’s reputed crime boss, he’ll see many changes. Bulger skipped town on Dec. 23, 1994, and had been living on the lam until he and his girlfriend were arrested without incident Wednesday night at their apartment in Santa Monica, Calif.

It’s unlikely Bulger will be allowed to visit any of his old haunts when he gets back to town, but even if he did, many of them wouldn’t be there anymore. A quick check of the Boston Globe from the day Whitey vanished is chock full of ads for Filenes, Bradlees, Lechmere and Circuit City, all retail giants that have since closed their doors. Building 19 is still around though, still selling good stuff cheap.

Whitey would find things a little more expensive around the old neighborhood. In the Globe classifieds (sort of like Craigslist, but printed with ink in the newspaper), a two-bedroom apartment in South Boston, in what was described as a “nice neighborhood” with a roof-deck, was renting for $600 a month, plus utilities. A quick check of the Internet shows a two-bedroom apartment in Southie now going for around $2,500 a month. If Whitey needed wheels back then, he could have picked up a brand new 1994 Ford Escort wagon for only $9,885, delivered.

Whitey’s younger brother Bill was still making news back in 1994. On the front page of the Dec. 23, 1994, Globe Metro section, a headline proclaimed then-Senate President William Bulger was irked over a convention center setback. The article described the give and take between the Senate and the House over the future of a new convention center. Whitey will be happy to know his little brother ultimately prevailed, with the Convention Center now a major draw in South Boston, just down the road from Whitey’s old home.

Some things haven’t changed since 1994. Boston is still a big sports town, and when Whitey left, there was a huge article on the front page of the Globe about how their 22-year-old phenom quarterback Drew Bledsoe was about to lead the Pats to their first playoff game since they lost Super Bowl XX back in 1986. Of course, not even Whitey knew back then that it would be another six years before the Patriots dynasty took hold, with Super Bowl wins in 2002, 2004 and 2005.

No one knows if Whitey got that Globe on the day he left town, but if he did, perhaps he might have read his horoscope. Virgo: Buckle down to work this morning so you can leave early. Banish any feeling of jealousy or suspicion.

Feds Offer Some Details On Bulger Arrest

Published June 23, 2011

U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz says today is the day justice begins for the 19 victims of James “Whitey” Bulger.  She does not expect him to face the death penalty for cases pending in Boston.

Eighty-one-year old Bulger and his longtime companion Catherine Greig were living in Santa Monica under the names Charles and Carol Gasko.  Ortiz says Bulger was lured out of his apartment by undercover agents and arrested without incident.  Agents returned to the apartment and arrested Greig, who will be charged with harboring a fugitive and possibly additional charges.

Ortiz declined to describe the tip that lead to Bulger’s arrest, but said it came in days after a publicity campaign that featured pictures of Greig.

Authorities have launched extradition proceedings to bring Bulger and Greig to Boston.  They are due in court in Los Angeles today.

Bulger and Grieg had been on the run for 16 years.