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Following his arrest in California, reputed mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger appeared in federal court in South Boston Friday, the same neighborhood where he is said to have carried out his violent reign for decades.
Bulger will face charges for 19 murders, as well as conspiracy, narcotics distribution, extortion and money laundering. The big question now is whether Bulger will give up new information about corrupt FBI agents, who allegedly not only ignored his crimes, but helped him run his criminal empire.
Boston Globe reporter Shelley Murphy was at the initial court appearance for Bulger and his girlfriend, Catherine Greig, in Los Angeles Thursday. She said he was in good spirits, mocking reporters by mimicking them while pretending to take notes as they were.
“He actually looked rather grandfatherly. He had a white beard and mustache, he’s bald, with a little bit of white hair, sparse white hair on his head. What surprised me is how relaxed and nonchalant he looked… He did not look physically ill, he looked quite fit,” she said on a Boston.com video.
Bulger and Greig lived under the names Charles and Carol Gasko. Barbara Gluck, one of their neighbors in Santa Monica, told ABC that Bulger would get angry when she spoke with Greig.
“A couple of times he had rage outbursts, like, ‘Stop talking to her, lets go!’ I think he had dementia.”
WBUR’s David Boeri had this to say about the claim that the rage might be tied to dementia.
It made me smile, because the surveillance tapes [from] when they were back in Boston give a different light to that. I think that might be telling the neighbors its okay, its okay, he may have dementia issues, she might have suggested that. But those tapes back in Boston revealed the following converstation. I’m paraphrasing, but its close to real…. Whitey’s talking to Catherine on the phone. And he says (as there are two poodles barking in the background at Catherine’s house), to which Whitey says, ‘Listen. Will you shut the bleeping dogs up! I bleeping told you if you don’t bleeping shut the bleeping dogs up, I’m gonna come over and bleeping kill them!’
There’s speculation Bulger has more information about corrupt federal law enforcement officials – FBI agents who are now mostly retired. Former US attorney Don Stern, who ran the Boston office from 1993-2001, said in hindsight, he didn’t realize the level of distrust the state police had for the FBI. That dysfunction stymied the investigation, according to Stern.
“As you peeled away those facts, the unpleasant truths of law enforcement during that period in the Boston area, the wounds were very deep,” Stern told Here & Now. “So the old wounds continued to be open sores, and it sometimes made relationships quite tense.”