Bulger Day 29: The Prosecution Rests, Your Honor
As the government wraps up its case against Whitey Bulger, we look at where they’ve left us.
So Whitey Bulger’s on trial and you’re interested in hearing about it, but you’ve got this darn day job and you can’t manage to keep up with all the live tweets. We feel you. Here’s what you missed. (Past coverage here.)
Welcome to the trial of Charles W. Gasko. No wait, Donald Gene Gould. Or … Sidney Joe Terry? Ernest Boudreau? For 16 years, he was a man on the lam with many, many false identification documents. The FBI had to confront him in a Santa Monica parking garage, force him to his knees, and tell him they knew who he was before he said it. “I’m Whitey Bulger.”
He is, indeed, and this was the last day during which the government sought to prove him guilty of a whole slew of crimes. They called just two final witnesses: Sandra Lemansky, an IRS agent who explained her conclusion that Bulger had laundered a whole lot of money, and FBI agent Scott Garriola, who apprehended Bulger in that Santa Monica apartment two years ago. Garriola’s testimony took the jury out with a bang … or rather an arsenal of weapons that go “bang,” all of which he found in Bulger’s hideout, along with a girlfriend, a lot of money, and a lot of fake identification.
From the stand, the FBI’s Garriola gave the familiar but fun account of Bulger’s capture. Having received the tip from Bulger’s former neighbor (who made $2 million for her pains), he booked a babysitter, and headed to sunny Santa Monica to 1012 Third St., Apartment 303 to have a look. When he showed a building manager the mug shots, the man put his face in his hands and said, “Those are my neighbors.” Together, they found a way to lure Bulger, a.k.a. Charlie Gasko, out of his home, concocting a story about his storage locker being burgled. In front of that locker, they confronted him, told him to get down on the ground. He swore and complained that the floor was greasy, but eventually he did as he was told and admitted who he was. And, hoping Catherine Greig might receive kind treatment, he even granted them permission to search the apartment, helping them find all his secret hiding spots for $822,000 in cash and an arsenal of guns, all of them functional, none of them legally possessed, all of them, despite the defense’s earlier objections, shown to the jury today in rather dramatic fashion.
After that show and tell, and a cross-examination, came the word from Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Kelly. ”Your honor,” he said, “at this time the United States would rest its case against James Bulger.”
So where does this leave us?
There were 63 witnesses, 29 days of testimony, one Robert Duvall cameo, three obscenity-laced outbursts from Whitey Bulger, zero appearances from former Senate president Bill Bulger, and one possibly narcoleptic juror. Somewhere in there, the government tried to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant participated in 19 murders and engaged in racketeering, extortion, money laundering, obstruction of justice, perjury and weapons violations. We heard from his former criminal associates, who together offered the most damning firsthand accounts of many of those murders. We heard from forensic experts who showed the exhumed bodies that corroborated those accounts. We heard from family members of victims looking for justice who described the nights their loved ones never came home. We heard from Bulger’s extortion targets, who described having guns put to their head or placed in their mouths, their families threatened, even shot. We heard from FBI agents past and present who attempted to dispel Bulger’s claim that he never passed information on fellow criminals on to the authorities. We saw photos, of skulls, of graves, of guns, and of secret meetings.
Come Monday, it’ll be the defense’s turn to poke holes in the prosecution’s case, to insert reasonable doubt into the jury’s mind, and (though he’s not charged with it) to suggest he was no rat. They’ll attempt, in short, to reanimate the myth of Whitey Bulger. It’ll be quite the task.