IT SHOULD NOT BE SURPRISING that Lehr and O’Neill state, “Whitey even protested that the State Police were spreading rumors that Connolly passed him information through Billy.” After all, the then President of the Senate walked into a dinner meeting among his gangster brother, another gangster, and Connolly, without any apparent discomfort. FBI agents don’t routinely have dinner with gangsters unless they are dealing. In choosing that setting to demonstrate his brotherly love, the Senate President was sending an unambiguous message that he was part of the consideration for the deal. It’s the oldest ploy in the book: If someone doubts that the political fixer is in on the deal, tell the doubter that the fixer has agreed to make an appearance, which will signify his participation. When the fixer shows up, the deal is sealed.
At some point, the Bulger brothers owned the FBI agents whom they corrupted. Once money passed hands, the agents were subject to extortion. John Morris had taken at least $6,000 in cash and other “gifts” from Whitey, some of it through Connolly, and “Morris knew Whitey Bulger would not hesitate to use his weakness against him.” If he had any doubts, Whitey resolved them by warning him: “If I’m going to jail, you’re going to jail.” It is no coincidence that Whitey gave him the cash while Morris was in charge of the investigation of his brother, Billy, for taking $240,000 in connection with the construction of 75 State Street. Morris was also afraid of Connolly “because of his network of political allies, most notably Billy Bulger.” He saw how Billy could destroy the careers of law-enforcement officers who had turned on his brother or his friends.
It is only by understanding this arrangement involving Connolly, Morris, Whitey, and Billy that Billy’s escape from prosecution in the 75 State Street case can be explained. The basic facts are undisputed. Developer Harold Brown paid attorney Thomas Finnerty, a friend and former law partner of Bulger’s, $500,000, and nearly half of that money ended up in Bulger’s Fidelity Tax Free Bond account. Bulger, in a sworn affidavit, claimed that “he borrowed money from Finnerty without knowing its origin.” He thought it “belonged to Mr. Finnerty,” despite Finnerty’s having just sworn — as part of a divorce proceeding — that he was nearly broke.
Bulger said the money was a loan, though there was no note, no repayment schedule, and no specified rate of interest. Bulger paid back the loan three days after it was disclosed that the developer had been indicted for making payments to public officials. Bulger apparently panicked and, in his own words, “took steps to repay the loan as quickly as possible.” He even added interest: It came to 25 percent, an amount later characterized by Brown’s lawyer as “associated more with arm breaking than arm’s length.”
A memorandum to the Attorney General by one of Scott Harshbarger’s assistant prosecutors, revealed for the first time by Lehr and O’Neill, demonstrates that Bulger’s cover story was phony. Finnerty owed him no more than $110,000 in fees from another case. The $240,000 that ended up in Bulger’s account was Bulger’s share of the payoff from Brown. FBI files show that “Bulger actually kept a full share of Brown’s money. Although Bulger ‘repaid’ the loan, Finnerty washed the money back to Bulger through other law-firm accounts.” As the prosecutor’s memo puts it: “Approximately half of the $500,000 paid by Brown was funneled [sic] to Bulger without creating a direct link on paper…” If this is true, it would be interesting to see how Bulger treated these funds for income tax purposes. If he reported them as income, he committed perjury when he swore it was a loan. If he treated them as a loan, he committed tax fraud, assuming they were — as nearly everyone now believes — his share of the bribe paid by the developer. The bottom line is that Bulger apparently kept both the Brown payoff and the influence-peddling fee, though he pretended to return them with interest. The case against him seems overwhelming. Ordinary crooks go to prison on a lot less.