July 26, 2013

Agent's riveting account ends case against Bulger

The prosecution's final witness details the capture of the reputed Boston gang leader.

The Associated Press

BOSTON — Prosecutors rested their case against reputed Boston gangster James "Whitey" Bulger on Friday after calling 63 witnesses who described in sometimes gruesome detail his alleged role in 19 murders, a string of extortions and other crimes.

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Whitey Bulger

The Associated Press

Bulger, 83, is charged with 32 counts in a racketeering indictment that chronicles his alleged reign as leader of the Winter Hill Gang.

Bulger's lawyers are expected to begin presenting witnesses Monday. Defense lawyer J.W. Carney Jr. would not say whether Bulger will take the stand in his own defense.

Bulger was one of the FBI's most-wanted fugitives after he fled Boston in 1994, and the government ended its case Friday where freedom ended for Bulger: in a Santa Monica, Calif., rent-controlled apartment.

The jury heard riveting testimony from an FBI agent who described Bulger's capture there on June 22, 2011.

Special Agent Scott Garriola said he mobilized a group of officers after the Boston FBI told him about a tip they had received that Bulger and longtime girlfriend Catherine Greig might be living in a Santa Monica apartment building.

Garriola said he decided to lure Bulger out of the apartment by having the building manager tell him that someone had broken into his storage locker. A few minutes later, Bulger got off the elevator and walked into the garage, where agents were waiting to arrest him.

Agents asked him to get down on his knees, but Bulger, who was dressed in white clothing and a summer hat, initially refused.

"He swore at us a few times, told us he wasn't going to get down on his knees, there was grease on the floor, things like that," Garriola said.

Garriola said Bulger initially identified himself as Charles Gasko, but eventually said, "You know who I am. ... I'm Whitey Bulger."

From that point on, Bulger was cooperative, giving his consent for agents to search the apartment and telling agents that he had loaded guns and a large amount of cash there.

Bulger led them to a total of 30 guns -- including handguns and machine guns -- most hidden inside holes he had cut into the walls, nearly $822,000 in cash, a stack of knifes and numerous false Social Security cards and fake driver's licenses, Garriola said.

Garriola said Bulger repeatedly told him that he was cooperating in the hope of "future consideration for Catherine."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Zach Hafer asked Garriola to identify all 30 guns and to lay the piles of cash on a table as the jury watched.

Hafer also showed the jury photos of Bulger's bookshelves, which contained a collection of books about organized crime. One was written by Kevin Weeks, a former henchman Bulger once described as his "surrogate son," but who testified against him during the trial.

During cross-examination, Carney focused on Bulger's cooperation and asked if Bulger had said he had planned to use his guns during his capture.

"Well, he paused and then he told me that 'No, because a stray bullet may hit someone,"' Garriola said.

Judge Denise Casper has yet to rule on a request from prosecutors to bar several defense witnesses from taking the stand on the grounds that their testimony would be irrelevant or repetitive. Chief among those witnesses is Patrick Nee, a former Bulger associate who has been accused of playing a role in several murders.

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