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Whitey Bulger gets two life sentences — plus five years

For years, Whitey Bulger ran the Boston Irish mob called the Winter Hill Gang, and on Thursday, after a long trial, he was given two life sentences plus five years in prison. NBC's Brian Williams reports.

Whitey Bulger, the ruthless gangster who ran the South Boston underworld and then spent 16 years on the run, was sentenced Thursday to two life terms plus five years.

Wearing an orange jumpsuit, Bulger, 84, did not react as Federal Judge Denise Casper announced the exact sentence prosecutors had requested.

"The scope, the callousness, the depravity of your crimes is almost unfathomable," Casper told Bulger, who made no plea for leniency.

U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said the sentence brought a painful, protracted chapter in the city's history to an end.

"The myth, the legend, the saga of James Bulger is finally over," she said outside the courthouse. "He is ancient history."

Tommy Donahue, the son of murder victim Michael Donahue, speaks out following Whitey Bulger's sentencing, saying "That old bastard is finally going to be in prison, he's going to die in prison ... it's a damn good feeling."

Tommy Donahue, the son of murder victim Michael Donahue, told reporters he had waited 31 years for someone to pay for his father's death.

"That old bastard is finally going to be in prison, he's going to die in prison," Donahue said. "It’s bittersweet but it’s a damn good feeling.

"The next time I ever want to hear anything about him, I hope he’s dead."

Bulger's brother, Jackie, was in court but declined to comment afterward. His other brother, Billy, the former president of the Massachusetts Senate, did not attend.

The mobster's lawyers said they plan to appeal on the grounds that Bulger should have been allowed to present an immunity defense and testify that he was inoculated against prosecution by a federal prosecutor, who is now dead.

They also denounced the feds for putting vicious killers on the stand to testify against Bulger, including a hitman who served just 12 years after admitting to 20 murders.

“I think Jim is pleased that he held to his principles and did not participate in the sentencing portion of the trial. It took a lot of discipline for him not to react emotionally to some of the statements that were made,” J.W. Carney said.

Asked whether his client felt remorse, Carney was somewhat cryptic.

“It would be an unusual human being who did not have regrets about anything in his life,” the lawyer said. “Jim looks back at things and thinks about things he could have done differently.”

The once-feared Winter Hill Gang leader was convicted in August of 31 out of 32 counts, and the jury found prosecutors proved he had a hand in 11 out of 19 murders in the indictment.

The sentencing was spread over two days and opened with a parade of victims' family members calling him a "rat," a "coward," "Satan" and a "sad, lonely, irrelevant old man." 

Ever defiant, Bulger had refused to meet the relatives' eyes as they vented grief and rage they have carried for decades.

"I'll see him on the other side," vowed Steve Davis, whose sister Debra was choked to death in 1981 — one of eight murders that prosecutors failed to pin on Bulger.

Before she imposed the sentence, Casper cited the heartbreaking stories told by relatives during the hearing, tales of fathers and husbands who went out one day and never came home, who missed first days of school and weddings.

The families blasted Bulger for his cruelty, but they also blamed the FBI for turning a blind eye to his crimes while he was working as an informant.

It was a tip from a corrupt agent that led Bulger to skip town in 1994, the start of a long exile that saw him named one of the FBI's most wanted fugitives.

He was nabbed in 2011 while living in California with his girlfriend, Catherine Grieg, who is serving eight years for helping him elude capture.

The trial featured a rogue's gallery of murderous ex-cronies — including John "The Executioner" Martorano and Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi — who took the stand to pin crime after crime on Bulger.

The star witnesses were so unsavory that the jury let Bulger off the hook for eight killings, but found he had enough blood on his hands to support a racketeering conviction.


  • Whitey Bulger convicted of racketeering
  • Bulger was vicious and calculating, prosecutor tells jury
  • Whitey won't testify but calls his trial a sham
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