BOSTON — James “Whitey” Bulger’s former partner in crime spent hours Tuesday combatively sticking to his story that Bulger strangled two young women – and even claimed that Bulger was a pedophile.
Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi made the accusation as Bulger’s lawyer aggressively questioned him about his admission that he had engaged in oral sex with his girlfriend’s teenage daughter, Deborah Hussey, in the 1970s.
“You want to talk about pedophilia – right over there at that table,” Flemmi said, gesturing toward Bulger, seated at the defense table. Earlier Tuesday, Flemmi had said that Bulger had a 16-year-old girlfriend he took to Mexico on vacation with him.
Bulger, who exchanged obscenities with Flemmi shortly after he began testifying last week, glanced over at Flemmi when he made the remark, but the defendant did not have any visible reaction.
Bulger’s lawyer, Hank Brennan, pressed Flemmi on his assertion that Bulger strangled Hussey in 1985 because she was using drugs, getting arrested and dropping their names when she got in trouble.
Brennan suggested that Flemmi, not Bulger, killed Hussey after she told her mother he had molested her.
Brennan also pointed out inconsistencies in Flemmi’s testimony about both Hussey’s killing and the murder of Debra Davis, another Flemmi girlfriend. Both Hussey and Davis were 26 when they were killed.
Bulger has strongly denied killing the women.
Flemmi testified that Bulger strangled both women with his hands, but Brennan pointed out that he had testified during earlier civil and criminal trials that Bulger used a rope.
Flemmi insisted that the inconsistencies were due to “inadvertent mistakes” he made during his testimony and that he was telling the truth about Bulger killing the two women.
Tuesday was Flemmi’s fourth day testifying at Bulger’s racketeering trial. Bulger, 83, is accused of participating in 19 killings during the 1970s and ’80s while leading the notorious Winter Hill Gang. He fled Boston in 1994 and was one of the nation’s most-wanted fugitives until he was captured in California two years ago.
Flemmi, 79, has pleaded guilty to 10 murders and is serving a life sentence. He was due back on the witness stand Wednesday.
Testifying Monday, Flemmi said Hussey’s mother, Marion, had been his live-in girlfriend since Hussey was a toddler and that she had called him “Daddy.”
On Tuesday, Flemmi said Deborah Hussey was 17 or 18 at the time of their sexual contact. He interrupted Brennan repeatedly and insisted he did not sexually abuse Hussey.
“I wouldn’t say molested – consensual,” he said.
Flemmi said Bulger decided Hussey had to be killed and said he went along with it “reluctantly.” He said that on the day of the killing, he took Hussey shopping, then drove her to a home in South Boston, knowing that she’d be killed there.
Flemmi insisted that Bulger was responsible for her death.
“Did you fight for her in that house?” Brennan asked.
“You’re being very dramatic,” Flemmi said. Bulger “was in control. He was there. He could have walked away.”
Flemmi denied an account by Bulger henchman Kevin Weeks, who testified that he saw Bulger strangling Hussey and saw Flemmi using a rope to finish the job because he believed she was still alive.
“No, I didn’t,” Flemmi said after Brennan recounted Weeks’ testimony. Flemmi said that after she was dead, he removed a tight brown sweater she was wearing by pulling it over her head.
Flemmi acknowledged that he pulled some of Hussey’s teeth out to make identification of her body more difficult, but he said he couldn’t remove all her teeth.
“I was in a semi-traumatic state,” he said. “It was very distasteful to do and it was very difficult for me to do.”
In the killing of Davis, Flemmi acknowledged that he was unsure if Bulger used a rope or his hands to strangle her.
Flemmi testified that Bulger told him Davis had to be killed because Flemmi had told her that both the men were FBI informants. Bulger has vehemently denied being an informant, and his attorneys have spent much of their time trying to rebut testimony about his relationship with the FBI.
Brennan, however, suggested that Flemmi killed Davis for a different reason: She was interested in another man.
Flemmi denied that, but acknowledged that after Davis was killed, he told her family that he learned she had flown out of Boston’s Logan airport and that he would hire a private investigator to try to find her.
“Mr. Brennan, that’s all part of the cover-up,” he said.
Brennan pressed Flemmi on whether he was jealous when he learned Davis was interested in someone else and suggested he tapped the phones in their shared home so he could listen to her conversations.
Flemmi said Bulger “insisted on it” and said Bulger had done the same thing when he suspected one of his girlfriends was cheating on him.
Bulger shook his head at that remark.
“I’ll tell you, I’m a human being, you get a little jealous, but not enough to kill anyone,” Flemmi said.
Brennan also asked Flemmi about other killings he admitted participating in during the 1960s, before he met Bulger.
Flemmi said those killings were carried out during a “gang war” in Boston.
Brennan asked Flemmi if the mentality he developed was to “eliminate” anyone who threatened him.
“It goes without saying,” Flemmi said. Anyone who threatened him or his associates, he said, “they’d have a potential problem.”