Bulger Day 23: Flemmi and Bulger Exchange Words

Sparks flew as longtime Bulger associate Stephen Flemmi took the stand.

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: Everyone hotly anticipated Stephen Flemmi’s testimony against his former partner Whitey Bulger, whom he hadn’t seen in 17 years, because, frankly, we all assumed there might be an obscene confrontation akin to the ones we’ve seen with other star witnesses when they reunited. And, by golly, there was! Like clockwork, these gangsters.

The court didn’t get to Flemmi until very close to the end of the day, only enough time for him to get through the basics: he’s in federal prison serving multiple life sentences for the 10 murders to which he’s admitted. He knew Bulger and their relationship was “strictly criminal,” to borrow his ready-made-for-a-movie-title phrase. And he and Bulger together served as FBI informants, passing information on the Mafia and some South Boston criminals to the Feds, a contention which Bulger vehemently contests. All very basic, just scratching the surface. But then, as the jury filed out for the day, Flemmi apparently mouthed something that included the phrase “mother-fucker” to Bulger, who had been studiously avoiding eye contact most of the day. Bulger said something back which reporters couldn’t catch, but for which we can all use our imagination, and Flemmi replied, “Really?” So … swearing! This is getting predictable!

There were only two witnesses apart from that, a state chemist, and James Lindholm the former drug dealer who began telling the story of being forced to pay Bulger rent at gunpoint yesterday. Lindholm added some details to his account and withstood an almost jocular cross-examination from Bulger’s lawyer, J.W. Carney Jr. Carney made a point of coloring Lindholm as a habitual lier, pointing out that he didn’t tell Bulger the extent of his business dealings outside Boston so he wouldn’t have to pay as much rent money. Lindholm admitted this, adding, “I viewed Bulger as a provincial, local problem in Boston. Someone who wouldn’t matter in New York City or Philly.” Burn. Carney also tried to depict the deal he and Bulger struck as just the cost of doing business, especially because Bulger offered Lindholm protection and other services if he needed them. The prosecution reminded the jury that this deal was done at gunpoint. The cross was long enough that at one point reporters wondered whether Carney was filibustering to put off Flemmi’s testimony another day. (If so, he didn’t quite succeed.)

Elsewhere: Hanging over the day’s proceedings was the midday revelation that Stephen Rakes, who has long accused Whitey Bulger of forcing him to sell his South Boston liquor store at gunpoint, was found dead in Lincoln just days after prosecutors informed him he wouldn’t get the chance to testify against his longtime antagonist. More on that here, but it clearly shook many of the victims and family members who have gotten to know Rakes during various trials over the years.