BOSTON (MyFoxBoston.com) — The high-profile trial of reputed mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger began at the Moakley Federal Courthouse Wednesday.
Judge Denise Casper opened the first day in court by reminding the jury of their duties and detailing what must be proven by the government to render a guilty plea in any of the 32 counts Bulger faces.
Prosecutor Brian Kelly then took to the podium to deliver the opening statement for the government. Kelly said the case was about a criminal enterprise and that one man was at the center of it: "the defendant, James Bulger."
Kelly, who used slides to present his argument, discussed the charges Bulger is facing at length and presented a chart that laid out the 32 money laundering, two racketeering, five firearms, and two extortion charges.
The prosecution also discussed several of the 19 murders they claim were connected to Bulger. Three of the murders, John McIntyre, Arthur "Bucky" Barrett, and Deborah Hussey, were committed in the same South Boston home. Kelly explained the grisly details of the murders, all of which he claims Bulger committed.
Kelly claimed Bulger and his associates were successful in-part due to public corruption. He maintained that Bulger paid off law enforcement, which Bulger's attorneys admitted during their opening statement. The prosecution also called Bulger "one of the biggest informants in Boston."
Bulger's attorney, J.W. Carney, firmly denied that Bulger was ever an informant, claiming FBI Agent John Connolly "wanted people to believe he was an informant."
Carney claimed that at the time there was a "nationwide crusade" to "smash the mafia" and that "Bulger would never be provided with information that he could give even if he wanted to." The defense cited Bulger's Irish roots as the reason behind his inability receive information about the mafia. During testimony later in the day, the prosecution displayed surveillance images that showed Bulger standing alongside members of Boston's La Cosa Nostra, including capo Donato Angiulo.
The defense also said Bulger paid Connolly because he wanted information so that he could leave town if he were ever indicted. Carney also disputed the long held belief that Bulger was tipped off about his indictment before going on the lam for 16 years. He claimed Bulger was driving back to Boston from vacation when he heard of his indictment on the radio and did not hide in California, but rather lived his life "in plain sight."
Carney admitted that his client conducted illegal operations that include loan sharking, gaming, and drug distribution. After speaking about Bulger's relationship with Connolly, Carney said he brought up history to show the "depth of corruption" that allowed his client to engage in illegal acts.
The prosecution and defense painted very different pictures of three key government witnesses, John Martorano, Steve Flemmi, and Kevin Weeks. While the prosecution claimed the men admitted their role in Bulger's alleged crimes, including the 19 murders, Carney called their credibility into question.
Carney claimed the government was desperate to get information against Bulger and Connolly. He also claimed the government made a deal with Martorano, who he says would kill people "almost at random," that included placing $6,500 into his prison account and giving him a $20,000 check.
The defense also said that while Flemmi will claim Bulger murdered Debra Davis or Deborah Hussey, Bulger had no motivation to kill the women.
Carney concluded by asking the jurors to consider whether or not they can believe the three former Bulger associates beyond a reasonable doubt given their background.
The first day of the trial ended with the government's fist key witness, retired Mass. State Police Detective Bob Long. Long conducted surveillance on a Lancaster Street garage during the spring of 1980 and claims he witnessed Bulger, Flemmi, and members of the Boston mafia conduct meetings there. The retired detective viewed surveillance images of Bulger and several men who he identified as members of the world of organized crime.
Family members of Bulger's alleged victims joined the media in the packed courthouse. Among those in attendance were Steve Davis, Debra Davis' brother, and Patricia Donahue, Michael Donahue's wife. Investigators allege Davis was killed in 1981 after she planned to end her longtime relationship with Flemmi. Donahue was reportedly shot to death in 1982 while giving Edward Halloran a ride home.
Bulger's brother, Jack, was present in court. His other brother, former president of the state Senate William Bulger, did not attend.
The second day of testimony is scheduled for Thursday. The trial is expected to last between three to four months.
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