By Daniel Lovering
BOSTON (Reuters) – Former mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger on Friday called his trial on murder and racketeering charges “a sham” and said he will not take the witness stand, as his defense rested its case.
“My thing is, as far as I’m concerned… this is a sham and do what you want with me,” Bulger, 83, told U.S. District Court Judge Denise Casper in the Boston court house after his lawyer announced he would not testify.
Bulger, Boston’s most-feared criminal for decades, fled the city in 1994 on a tip from a corrupt FBI agent that arrest was imminent. He was on the FBI’s most wanted list for years before being captured in 2011.
He has pleaded not guilty on charges of participating in the murders of 19 people while heading Boston’s Winter Hill crime gang as it operated extortion, gambling and smuggling rackets.
Casper asked Bulger whether his choice not to testify was voluntary. He responded: “I’m making the choice involuntarily because I feel I’ve been choked off of the opportunity to give an adequate defense.”
Bulger was listed as an FBI informant for years, but Casper has ruled that he cannot argue that he has immunity.
Bulger’s attorney J.W. Carney said he had no further witnesses to call in his client’s defense. Lawyers for both sides are scheduled to present closing arguments on Monday, and the jury is expected to begin deliberations on Tuesday.
Government prosecutors presented seven weeks worth of testimony from former FBI agents, hit men, drug smugglers, extortion victims, and family members of the dead to paint Bulger as a hands-on killer.
Defense lawyers sought to undermine the testimony, saying many prosecution witnesses were ex-criminals who had cut plea deals, and that FBI files came from a Boston office that was tainted by corruption and mismanagement.
Bulger’s story has captured Boston’s imagination for decades, and recalled a dark period for Boston’s FBI when corrupt agents wined and dined gangsters and gave them tips that helped them evade arrest and identify snitches.
Bulger was finally captured in 2011 in Santa Monica, California, where he had been living with his girlfriend in an apartment with stacks of cash and weapons.
His tale inspired Martin Scorsese’s 2006 Academy Award-winning film ‘The Departed.’
(Reporting by Daniel Lovering; Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by David Gregorio)