With Bulger Manhunt Over, Questions Begin

By Phillip Martin

June 27, 2011

Steve Martinez, assistant director in charge of the Los Angeles FBI office, right, speaks next to a 'wanted' poster overstamped 'captured' for James 'Whitey' Bulger, at FBI headquarters in Los Angeles on Thursday. (AP)

BOSTON — After 16 years on the run, James "Whitey" Bulger is now confined to the Plymouth House of Correction's infamous G section. But the story of Bulger's arrest is only just beginning.

He disappeared into the night in 1994, after FBI agent John Connolly tipped his confidential informant that he was just days away from being arrested. He stayed hidden longer than Osama bin Laden, with whom he shared a place on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List.

But the circumstances of his apprehension — explained by the FBI as old-fashioned police work aided by a tipster — are now the subject of widespread doubt and suspicion.

James "Whitey" Bulger and his girlfriend Catherine Grieg were picked up in Santa Monica days after an FBI ad targeting Greig aired on local television stations and on Youtube. Richard DesLaurier, Special Agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston office, said the spots did not air in Los Angeles, but media coverage of the ad campaign led to an important tip.

“The Los Angeles FBI agents immediately relayed the tip to the FBI’s command center in Boston. The command post had been set up specifically to quickly and methodically analyze and direct leads around the country and around the world as necessary.   The FBI reviewed the tip and recognized that certain information appeared to be credible and promising,” DesLaurier said.

But Massachusetts' Rep. Stephen Lynch has his doubts. The Democrat is calling for a full investigation into the circumstances of Whitey Bulger’s arrest. Lynch wants to know how the FBI succeeded in nabbing the elusive fugitive and FBI informant days after the ad aired, when every other attempt over the years yielded nothing but rumors of Bulger sightings.

Lynch also says he wants to know more about Bulger’s previous ties to higher-ups within the Boston office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Others are also suggesting Bulger's FBI connections, which are already documented in civil lawsuits and federal court testimonies by his former associates, could come back to haunt current government and law-enforcement officials. Appearing Saturday on CBS’s Early Show, Eddie Mackenzie, a kickboxer and reputed former enforcer for the Irish Mob, said that he believes Bulger is in a position to name names that could prove embarrassing.

“I believe somewhere out there there’s a hole dug with a big portfolio of a lot of dirty public officials and maybe some dirty law enforcement officials that "Whitey" Bulger has had for years waiting for this day of his capture so he could use it for some kind of bargaining tool," Mackenzie said.

Mackenzie, one of several Bulger associates attempting to profit from his own crimes by selling a tell-all book, said Bulger’s testimony could prove to be explosive.  

Meanwhile, the FBI in a statement over the weekend said that any suggestion that the agency knew where Bulger was hiding after all these years “is wrong."

But the larger question of whether higher-ups within the agency knew about Bulger’s criminal exploits, including the 11 murders he is said to have committed while on the FBI's service as an informant, will continue to be the subject of speculation and investigation.   

Bulger may face life in prison for the crimes he committed in Massachusetts, while he could face the death penalty if convicted of the murder charges he faces in Florida and Oklahoma.

No date has yet been set for what could very well be the trial of the 21st Century in Boston.  

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