Bulger Day 9: The Informant Files
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.)
The Witnesses: There was just one witness today, the Dept. of Justice’s James Marra, who took the prosecution through some of Whitey Bulger’s hulking FBI file. The defense hasn’t yet cross-examined him, so the takeaway of the day was that Whitey Bulger gave the FBI a whole lot of evidence about a whole lot of South Boston and mafia criminals, and occasionally worked his FBI contacts to give false information about crimes in which he was actually involved. The case of Brian Halloran, for instance, is one where Bulger told the FBI that they should look into whether the mafia killed him because he’d been cooperating with law enforcement, when (according to the government) it was actually Bulger who had Halloran killed for leaking info to the FBI linking him to anther murder.
Bulger himself has alleged in a letter from jail that he never gave the FBI any information that put anyone in jail, though Marra’s testimony contested that claim. Bulger’s lawyers also claimed in opening arguments, and will likely claim again on cross-examination, that the file’s contents were largely fabricated by his handler, the corrupted FBI Agent John Connolly. Apparently seeking to defuse that narrative, the prosecutors today noted that the file contained information Bulger gave to multiple FBI agents, not just Connolly, the idea being that all of them colluding to fabricate a huge file would be pretty unlikely.
The Gag Order: The judge started the day by considering a motion to lift the gag order on the defense that prevents them from talking with the media. “The overriding tenor of the media coverage has been adverse to the defendant,” Bulger’s attorneys wrote. “The defendant has no voice in this discourse.” The prosecutors fought back, saying the jury wasn’t supposed to read media coverage, and that Bulger could take the stand to give himself a voice if he wanted. The judge didn’t immediately rule.
Given the slow pace by which the prosecution made its way through the info Bulger allegedly gave the government, it seemed like a fairly unremarkable day in court by Bulger trial standards. But stay tuned for testimony from Connolly’s supervisor, John Morris, who had direct contact with Bulger in his role as an informant. Should be fascinating.