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Verdict Reached In Whitey Bulger Trial

1:30 PM, Aug 12, 2013   |    comments
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(CBS) BOSTON -Reputed Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger was found guilty Monday in a string of 11 killings in the 1970s and 1980s following a racketeering trial that spanned more than seven weeks and was marked by damning testimony from men that were once his closest confidantes.

Bulger, whose 16 years on the run exposed the FBI's corrupt relationship with its underworld informants, was also found guilty of crimes including racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, extortion, and narcotics distribution conspiracy. He had been charged in 19 murders and an array of other crimes.

Federal prosecutors called 63 witnesses over six and a half weeks, followed by the defense, which called 15 witnesses over one week. After hearing closing arguments from prosecutors and defense attorneys, the jury of 12 began deliberating last Tuesday morning. 

Deliberations spanned 32 and a half hours before the verdict was read in court Monday.

It had been widely debated as to whether Bulger himself would take the stand. Bulger answered the looming question as the defense rested its case, telling a federal judge he had "involuntarily" decided not to testify.

"I feel that I've been choked off from having an opportunity to give an adequate defense," he said. "My thing is, as far as I'm concerned, I didn't get a fair trial, and this is a sham, and do what youse [sic] want with me. That's it. That's my final word," he said to the judge without the jury present.

Bulger fled Boston in 1994 after being tipped off by a retired FBI agent about his indictment and was one of the FBI's most-wanted fugitives until he was captured with his longtime girlfriend in Santa Monica, Calif., in 2011.

During the trial, which launched with opening statements June 12, prosecutors portrayed Bulger as a vicious and violent criminal who "ran amok" in Boston for nearly 30 years, describing him as a "hands-on killer" who made millions through drugs, extortion, illegal gambling and loan-sharking. Several family members of Bulger's alleged murder victims gave emotional testimony about how their family members' deaths impacted their lives.

The defense countered that the prosecution's star witnesses, former Bulger cohorts who connected the 83-year-old to numerous killings and themselves convicted criminals, were not to be believed.

The defense also denied prosecution claims that Bulger was an FBI informant for years and provided information on the rival New England Mafia.

Convicted hit man John Martorano, former Bulger partner Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi and former Bulger lieutenant Kevin Weeks all took the stand for prosecutors, describing gruesome killings the reputed mob boss either ordered, approved or carried out.

The testimony was at times explosive. When Weeks described Bulger and Flemmi as "the two biggest rats," Bulger responded, "You suck," from his seat at the defense table, and an expletive-laced exchange erupted between the two.

Flemmi, who was once Bulger's right hand man, pinned the killings of his girlfriend and stepdaughter on Bulger, murders the reputed mob boss has adamantly denied. Bulger decided Flemmi's girlfriend Debra Davis knew too much and strangled her in front of Flemmi, the once-loyal Bulger associate told a rapt jury.

Allegations of pedophila emerged as Flemmi testified Bulger strangled Flemmi's stepdaughter, Deborah Hussey, because she was using drugs, getting arrested and dropping their names when she got in trouble. But Flemmi also acknowledged that he twice had oral sex with Hussey in what he called a consensual act and "a moment of weakness." He went on to accuse Bulger of engaging in oral sex with Hussey when she was a teen in the 1970s.

"You want to talk about pedophilia--right over there at that table," Flemmi said, gesturing towards Bulger.

Flemmi pleaded guilty to 10 murders and is serving a life sentence, avoiding the death penalty. Martorano and Weeks have both completed their sentences. Martorano served 12 years in federal prison, though he has admitted to killing 20.

Defense attorney Hank Brennan blasted Flemmi, Weeks and Martorano, saying they were in a position to benefit by testifying against Bulger. 

"You have to sit there and ask yourself - why are they still walking the streets? If they're so vicious and violent and our government knows about it, why are they out there right now?" Brennan asked the jury.

The defense argued Flemmi, not Bulger, had a motive to kill the two women.

In an attempt to dispute allegations Bulger was a "rat" who informed on the rival Italian mob and people in his own gang, the defense called former FBI supervisor Robert Fitzpatrick, who testified he tried to terminate Bulger as an informant because he was not providing helpful information. The defense tried to show Bulger wasn't an informant in hopes of undercutting the credibility of prosecution witnesses. Bulger's lawyers claim his supposed FBI handler, John Connolly, fabricated Bulger's FBI file to advance his own career at a time when bringing down the Mafia was a national priority for the FBI.

The trial was marked by intrigue outside the courtroom as well, when staunch Bulger detractor Stephen Rakes was found dead July 17 in a Boston suburb. Rakes,a 59-year-old former Boston liquor store owner who claimed to have been extorted by Bulger and had hoped to testify against him, had recently been taken off the prosecution's witness list, according to reports.

Police announced Friday, Aug. 2 they had arrested William Camuti, a Massachusetts man who owed Rakes money, for allegedly poisoning Rakes' iced coffee and then dumping his body in the woods.

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