Editorial: Seeing Bulger

Americans have something of a romance with outlaws.

From the James gang of the old West through Pretty Boy Floyd, Bonnie and Clyde, Dillinger, Capone, their exploits capture the imagination, sometimes turning them from criminals to almost heroes, modern day Robin Hoods.

And then there’s James Whitey Bulger.

As his just-concluded trial made more than clear, Bulger is neither a romantic figure nor criminal with a soft side. No, the infamous gangster who headed up the Winter Hill gang in the streets of South Boston and beyond is a calculating, vicious killer who didn’t care who got hurt while he plied his illegal trades — narcotics, extortion and prostitution.

His story isn’t glamorous, rather it’s an ugly one of fear and violence.

Perhaps, the guilty verdict was something of the foregone conclusion. But it took this trial to peel away any pretense that Bulger was anything but a treacherous thug and cold-blooded murderer who tainted practically everything he came into contact with. This sadly included the FBI, whose agents entered into a deal with the Devil — leaving the federal law enforcement agency having to answer for its own corruption in the matter.

As U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said, “actions that were taken and actions that were not taken by corrupt federal agents, state and local police, led to deplorable behavior by those who knew better — those we held in a position of trust.”

It’s going to be a long time in the Boston area before anyone forgets it was an FBI agent who tipped off Bulger that he was about to be indicted, leading to 16 years on the run that finally came to an end in Santa Monica, Calif., where he was living a quiet life in an apartment complex for seniors — in an apartment with a stash of guns and $822,000 in cash.

If his days as an FBI informant, where he carried on as a crook and murderer, tainted justice, then perhaps this jury cleaned off a bit of the tarnish when it found Bulger responsible for 11 of 19 murders over the course of several decades and several counts of racketeering. As to the other eight charges, the jury said they didn’t have enough evidence to make a determination.

In all, 31 of 32 counts produced a guilty verdict.

Heroic? A Robin Hood? No way.

Just a murderous creep who will finally get some payback — albeit belated — for the many lives he ruined.

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