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Whitey Bulger verdict: Mob boss is convicted of 11 killings, racketeering (+video)

James 'Whitey' Bulger was convicted of 31 racketeering charges, which he barely contested. He also failed to show that his personal code barred him from killing women or serving as an FBI informant, a tie that battered the FBI's reputation.

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Their testimony was instrumental, in part, because of the loss of credibility of the FBI over the years. During the Bulger trial, the government’s own witnesses testified to extensive government corruption by FBI agents in the Boston office, with Bulger and his gang bribing their handlers with tens of thousands of dollars, lavish gifts, and vacations.

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Indeed, perhaps the single most significant impact of the Bulger case may be its effect on the FBI itself – and how it chooses to manage its extensive network of criminal informants in the future – so as to avoid having those informants turn the tables and corrupt the crime fighters themselves, several analysts say.

“It’s alarming, the extent of FBI involvement in Bulger’s crimes that this trial has revealed,” says Michael Coyne, associate dean at the Massachusetts School of Law in Andover, Mass., who has followed the trial closely.

In the end, FBI corruption made the prosecution of Bulger more difficult, especially when the jury had to listen to government’s own witnesses talk about FBI agents assisting with the murder of a witness, “or listen to former FBI agents complicit with Mr. Bulger’s criminal enterprise,” Mr. Coyne says.

After that decades-long dance between the violent Bulger gang and the FBI agents who knew about it was revealed in 1998, lawmakers were aghast. Even while Bulger was accused of participating in 19 murders, his own FBI handler was convicted in 2002 of racketeering and, in 2008, of second-degree murder for leaking information to Bulger that led to a murder.

The Bulger-FBI linkup proved to be a bombshell for the bureau. It adopted tough new guidelines for informants in light of the revelations, and congressional investigations followed. 

"What happened in New England over a forty year period is, without doubt, one of the greatest failures in federal law enforcement history," the House Committee on Government Reform conceded in a 2004 report: "Everything Secret Degenerates: The FBI's Use of Murderers as Informants."

Under the new FBI guidelines, confidential informants now undergo scrutiny for suitability before being approved and are regularly warned about limits on their authority. Informants may engage in otherwise illegal activities only as they are justified according to unusual circumstances and only after those activities are "carefully defined" and approved by Department of Justice and FBI personnel, the DOJ reported in 2005.

But the trial has brought all of the old failures to the surface to be seen once again – with hopes that it will be a reminder of the dangers and make the process of using criminal informants less poisonous for law enforcement.

“It has certainly shed light on the extent of the problem – and hopefully awakened the FBI and other government officials to look at their internal policies,” Coyne says, “precisely so this type of abuse and involvement with criminal enterprises doesn’t go on in the future.”

With this verdict, the jury has found that Bulger played a role in the murders of Deborah Hussey, Paul McGonagle, Edward Connors, Thomas King, Richard Castucci, Roger Wheeler, Brian Halloran, Michael Donahue, John Callahan, Arthur Barrett, and John McIntyre.

US District Court Judge Denise Casper scheduled sentencing for Nov. 13. Bulger faces a maximum of life, plus 30 years, in prison.

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