James “Whitey” Bulger was sentenced to life in prison Thursday on a racketeering indictment, that included murder and extortion. The sentencing followed his conviction in August and a 16-year manhunt that began in 1994 when Bulger fled Boston after a corrupt FBI agent warned him that he would soon be indicted.
The charges date to Bulger’s days as a mob boss in South Boston decades ago:
Bulger, the inspiration for Jack Nicholson’s sinister character in the 2006 movie “The Departed,” was seen for years as a Robin Hood figure who bought Thanksgiving turkeys for working-class South Boston residents and kept hard drugs out of the neighborhood. But that image was shattered when authorities started digging up bodies more than a decade ago.
Prosecutors at his two-month trial portrayed him as a cold-blooded, hands-on boss who killed anyone he saw as a threat, along with innocent people who happened to get in the way.
Corrupt Boston FBI agents protected Bulger for years while he worked simultaneously as a crime boss and an FBI informant who ratted out the rival New England Mafia and other crime groups.
Former Boston FBI agent John Connolly Jr. — Bulger’s handler when he was an informant — was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being convicted of tipping him off ahead of an indictment. After receiving the tip in 1994, Bulger fled Boston and remained a fugitive for more than 16 years until he was captured in Santa Monica, Calif., in 2011.
Bulger called the trial a sham and did not cooperate with authorities. He refused to testify or give information to probation officials preparing the judge’s sentencing report.
The jury convicted Bulger of 11 murders, but acquitted him of seven others and could not deliver a verdict on one other. Bulger was sentenced to two life terms and five years.