Mob boss convicted but much still unresolved
BOSTON (AP) — Even after James “Whitey” Bulger’s two-month trial in federal court ended with his conviction in 11 killings, the former Boston mob boss’ fate is uncertain and his day in the spotlight is not over.
Bulger has promised to appeal his federal conviction, and his attorneys say he still has secrets to tell about corruption in law enforcement while he was running Boston’s underworld.
He also faces murder charges in Florida and Oklahoma, both death-penalty states, and he is at the center of civil litigation.
“I don’t think you’ve heard the last word from James Bulger,” said defense attorney Hank Brennan.
The 83-year-old Bulger, convicted of a host of federal crimes ranging from extortion to money laundering, will effectively get a life term in prison when he is sentenced in November.
But he also faces an indictment in Oklahoma in the 1981 death of Roger Wheeler, who was shot after a round of golf at a Tulsa, Oklahoma, country club. Prosecutors say Bulger’s gang members suspected Wheeler knew they had been skimming money from his business, World Jai Alai.
Bulger also was indicted in 2001 in Florida in the 1982 slaying of John Callahan, former president at World Jai Alai. Prosecutors say former hit man John Mortorano killed Callahan because Bulger feared he’d talk about the hit on Wheeler.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said Tuesday she’ll decide whether to proceed with the case against Bulger after considering many factors, including Bulger’s federal sentence and whether Callahan’s family wants to go forward. Prosecutors haven’t decided yet whether to pursue the death penalty, she said.
“If we proceed with our indictment, then it’s a question of what we’ll be seeking in terms of a just result for what he did to Mr. Callahan, what he and his co-conspirators did,” Fernandez Rundle said.
Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris said he’ll also wait until after federal sentencing to decide whether to try Bulger.
“We will assess his punishment, review his appeal rights and determine what is practical and feasible under our analysis of the facts and circumstance, including our valuable resources,” he said in a statement.
Retired Tulsa police detective Michael Huff was on the scene after the Wheeler killing and stayed on the case to the indictment. He hopes Harris tries Bulger in Oklahoma.
The shocking mob hit left a scar on Tulsa, and the loss of Wheeler, a major employer who was active in local charities, was felt around the city for years, he said. Bulger needs to answer for what he did in the places he did it, Huff said.
“I think Tulsa deserves the chance to prosecute this evil bastard,” he said.
Regardless of whether Bulger is tried for murder in state courts, his name will be heard in civil cases, including a lawsuit against the FBI by the family of Bulger victim Michael Donahue. Donahue was killed in 1982 when he offered a ride home to a man allegedly targeted for death by Bulger because he was talking to the FBI.
The family’s complaint says Bulger’s corrupt FBI handlers told him about the informant, triggering the hit that also killed Donahue. After Bulger’s conviction Monday, widow Patricia Donahue vowed to push ahead with the lawsuit against the FBI.
“One down, one to go,” she said.