James “Whitey” Bulger’s defense attorney sought to raise questions about the credibility of a key witness in the trial of the notorious gangster, winning an acknowledgment from a retired State Police official that the witness, a convicted hit man, had not agreed to testify about everything he knew.
“There were some people he was not going to offer evidence against,” said Thomas Foley, the retired State Police colonel who spearheaded the investigation that resulted in charges against Bulger in 1995 that ended Bulger’s alleged reign of terror in Boston’s underworld.
Defense attorney Hank Brennan cross-examined Foley about John Martorano, one of three former associates of Bulger who are expected to offer crucial but flawed testimony — crucial because they were once in league with Bulger, but flawed because they have been convicted of crimes themselves, including murder or being an accessory to murder.
Martorano admitted to committing 20 murders between 1965 and 1982, some at the behest of Bulger or his right-hand man Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi. Martorano served 12 years and 2 months in prison after agreeing to testify for the government.
Bulger, 83, is charged in 32 counts of a racketeering indictment that alleges that while running a criminal enterprise from 1972 to 2000, he participated in 19 murders; extorted bookmakers and drug dealers, and businessmen; laundered his criminal profits through real estate transactions; and stockpiled an arsenal of weapons.
His legend grew when he eluded a worldwide manhunt for 16 years after the indictment in 1995 and when it was learned that he had been protected by the FBI, which considered him a prized informant.
Brennan also questioned Foley about whether Martorano had implicated two other former Bulger associates in murder and why they hadn’t been charged. Foley said he had “passed the information along to the appropriate authorities,” the Suffolk and Middlesex district attorney’s office and the Boston police, because it wasn’t part of his investigation.
Foley also testified at length about his frustration with State Police investigations of Bulger being thwarted by what he believed were leaks from the FBI. He said the FBI protected its prized informant at the expense of public safety.
“In your view, was the FBI’s informant program at the time not well-managed?” asked federal prosecutor Fred Wyshak.
“To say the least, it was poorly run,” Foley said, who rose from directing organized crime investigations to become head of the State Police before retiring.
Earlier, the prosecution had introduced jurors to the tools of Bulger’s alleged trade: The guns that Bulger used to amass millions of dollars in his criminal business. Prosecutors introduced into evidence a small arsenal of firearms collected from hiding places linked to Bulger over the years.
Foley described guns shown in police photographs and identified actual weapons, including a fully-automatic machine gun seized when the son of Bulger’s former ally, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, helped police in 2000 find arms caches in South Boston and Somerville.
Also among the items found: Halloween and ski masks. “They’re commonly used in the commission of a crime, to hide your identity,’’ Foley testified.
Under cross-examination, Foley acknowledged that none of the weapons were found in Bulger’s home, nor was there any DNA or fingerprint evidence linking Bulger to the weapons.
Also today, a retired State Police detective who led the agency’s surveillance of Bulger’s crime headquarters near Boston Garden in 1980 described the effort. Robert Long led the operation which focused on a garage on Lancaster Street.
Detectives observed Bulger, local Mafia leaders and other gangland figures meeting at the garage, but the investigation was thwarted, unbeknownst to them, by a corrupt State Police officer. Bulger and his partner, Flemmi, inexplicably stopped coming to the garage.
Long, whose testimony began Wednesday, said that he had seen Arthur “Bucky” Barrett leaving the garage with Bulger and others. Barrett, a safecracker, is one of the 19 people Bulger allegedly killed. Bulger allegedly tortured Barrett into disclosing where he had hidden $40,000 stolen during a 1980 bank heist, then killed him.
The videos and photographs introduced by prosecutors showed Bulger associating with Mafia figures, despite defense attorney J.W. Carney Jr’s assertion in his opening statement that Bulger had little information on the Mafia as an informant for the FBI.
Before Long took the stand Wednesday, prosecutors and defense attorneys gave their opening statements, outlining their cases.
A Bulger defense attorney admitted, contrary to the myth that Bulger had promoted, that Bulger was involved in drug dealing. He was also involved in illegal sports betting and loansharking, making millions, said J.W. Carney Jr.
But Bulger denies being an informant and does not admit to killing anyone, Carney said. Carney specifically denied that Bulger strangled two young women and orchestrated the slayings of two businessmen in the death penalty states of Florida and Oklahoma.
The prosecution described Bulger as a remorseless “hands-on killer,” describing him joking before killing Barrett and then taking a nap afterwards, the Globe reports today.
Follow the trial live with updates from reporters at the courthouse on bostonglobe.com and boston.com.