Bulger trial: Will the defendant take the stand?
Prosecutors in the trial of accused murderer and gang leader James 'Whitey' Bulger want to know whether the accused will testify. So far, however, the defense has kept that information private.
BOSTON — A retired FBI agent told jurors in James "Whitey" Bulger's racketeering trial that the mother of one of the defendant's alleged victims suspected his longtime partner in crime, not Bulger, may have killed her daughter.
Wednesday's testimony came as prosecutors pushed for an answer about whether 83-year-old Bulger would take the stand himself.
Bulger faces charges connected to allegations that he participated in 19 slayings in the 1970s and 80s while leading the Winter Hill Gang, Boston's Irish mob.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Wyshak told U.S. District Judge Denise Casper the government "deserves to know" if Bulger will take the stand, and that his lawyers haven't revealed their plans.
The judge said she'd take up the issue at the end of the day. When testimony wrapped up in the afternoon, she held a private sidebar with the attorneys and then adjourned for the day without any sign of a resolution on the matter.
Some family members of Bulger's alleged victims said they're eager to see him take the stand.
Tommy Donahue, whose late father Michael prosecutors count among Bulger's victims, said Bulger could salvage some of his reputation if he exposed corruption in law enforcement.
"He's going to get 'guilty' on probably every single charge that's on him. He doesn't have any choice if he wants to try to save any name he has left. He has to take the stand," Donahue said.
Steve Davis, whose late sister Debra is among those whom prosecutors claim Bulger killed, also suggested the defendant could give an insider's view of law enforcement corruption.
"If he chooses to bring down the corruption of the law enforcement locals, the state, the feds, I'd like to hear that," Davis said.
Testimony Wednesday from retired FBI agent James Crawford touched on Debra Davis' slaying.
He said Davis' mother asked him to look into Debra's disappearance and suspected Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi — whom her 26-year-old daughter had been dating — may have killed her.
Flemmi is Bulger's former partner and previously testified that Bulger killed Debra Davis. Outside the courtroom, Steve Davis said he believed Bulger and Flemmi "were tied into it together" when it came to his sister's 1981 death.
Crawford also testified that a female informant told him before Edward "Brian" Halloran's slaying in 1982 that Bulger and Flemmi knew he was snitching on them to the FBI and Flemmi planned to kill Halloran.
Crawford said he didn't write up a report on the informant's tip because he promised confidentiality, but passed her information to a supervisor and a fellow agent. He said he learned days later about the shooting deaths of Halloran and bystander Michael Donahue and sought out a different boss to talk about it.
Under cross-examination, Crawford identified that boss as Robert Fitzpatrick, the former FBI supervisor whom prosecutors tried to discredit Tuesday citing inconsistencies in testimony from other trials and accusing him of embellishing to sell copies of his book about Bulger.
Also Wednesday, Patrick Nee, a former Bulger associate whom Flemmi linked to the deaths of Halloran and Donahue, came to court as a would-be defense witness. He left without testifying after his lawyer conferred with the judge. Prosecutors previously said Nee would probably invoke his right against self-incrimination if called.
The defense did call retired FBI supervisor Fred Davis Jr., who described inspecting Bulger's thin informant file in 1979 and recommending its closure.
"My opinion was that it was worthless," he said.
Davis also spoke of a culture of paranoia within the Boston FBI office, where agents were nervous that other agents were leaking information from files.
The witness agreed during cross-examination that Bulger's informant file could have been thin if the FBI closed it while investigating him for a crime, before reopening it later.
The defense insists Bulger wasn't an informant and that a FBI corrupt agent attributed informant information to him.