Hi Reddit -

David Boeri here. I'm a senior reporter at WBUR, Boston's NPR news station and I'm spending every day for the next four months at the federal courthouse in Boston, where James "Whitey" Bulger is currently on trial for charges that include 19 counts of murder.

A little about me: I've been doing news for 30 years and I've reported on stories about corruption in politics, in the FBI, in the criminal justice system, and have won various awards for my investigative journalism work.

My team and I just launched a deep, interactive dive into the life, crimes, and trial of Bulger called "Bulger On Trial" and it features evidence I've collected over my thirty years reporting on the mob boss.

Here's proof that I am me

Ask me anything!

(By the way, as a journalist I can't reveal any anonymous sources or anything like that)

Edit: Alright everyone, that's it for me. Thank you very much for the questions. This was a great time. The trial is still going on - feel free to follow updates at our Bulger On Trial site. Thanks again!

Comments: 101 • Responses: 28  • Date: 

ruggburne15 karma

This has nothing to do with Bulger but what has your favorite assignment been with WBUR? BTW, I am a proud WBUR member!

davidboeri10 karma

What's been fabulous about WBUR is that I've been allowed to pursue my interests in the courts and in matters of corruption involving law enforcement, and breaches of trust involving the government and the Justice Department.

I'm reminded of the line by John Adams: "We are a nation of laws, and not of men."

identicalcousins15 karma

My father was General Manager at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa OK when Roger Wheeler was killed at Whitey Bulgers orders, He literally died in my fathers arms. Pop was the first one to respond to the scene and tried to aid Mr Wheeler in his car. Though 32 years have passed the scene is still very fresh in my mind, seeing my father come out of his office in a blood covered suit.

Thank you for your dedication to exposing this monster

davidboeri11 karma

I was in Tulsa to cover the aftermath of that shooting. Your father was a heroic man but there was nothing that could save Roger Wheeler, as you know. He was shot between the eyes at nearly point blank range by the hit man John Martorano.

What made that scene all the more horrific for me was that Martorano was watched by kids playing in the country club swimming pool that day. Bulger may be coming to Oklahoma in the future to face the charges of murdering Wheeler, who was the biggest employer in Tulsa at the time.

identicalcousins7 karma

A CNN producer gave me a business card and asked me to pass it along to my father if he wished to comment on the murder, I presented it to him and he tore it from my hands warning me to not say a word to anyone about what I'd seen that day

Was 'The Rifleman" with Martorano that afternoon? the escape route they used was so hidden to anyone, makes it very real to think they had been there scouting for the hit in such proximity to those kids.

davidboeri9 karma

No, Stephen Flemmi was not with Martorano. He was assisted that day by Joe McDonald, who died of natural causes. The two of them had been in the area for a week. They say that they had been given Wheeler's tee time, if you can believe this, by Wheeler's chief of security at his company, World Jai Alai. Who by the way, was a former FBI agent, arrested in 2003 or 2004, he was brought to Tulsa to be charged and died in jail awaiting trial.

I'd love to talk to your father but I assure you that the principals that day are all accounted for.

Excelsior_Kingsley13 karma

Did you think Jack Nicholson did a good job of playing him in The Departed?

Do you think Bulger is gonna get off light?

All joking aside. Cool work. I wish more people would cover this sort of thing. I appreciate it.

davidboeri17 karma

  1. Nicholson played a cardboard cutout compared to Bulger—a cartoon figure. Bulger was more devious and buttoned down about what he did.

  2. No. At this point it doesn't appear that the defense has a defense, and even if Bulger beats some of the charges, Bulger's road heads south, where two states, Florida and Oklahoma, are enthusiastic about the death penalty and enthusiastic about trying him in a death penalty case.

shesmadeline10 karma

What advice would you have for young people (i.e. high schoolers) interested in journalism? Many say it will be difficult to find a job, or for jobs in this field to even exist, in the future.

davidboeri8 karma

There will never be an end to the need for good storytelling or for people finding wrongdoing in government and law enforcement.

I expect the media will change and different opportunities will arise, but that won't change. So, if you care deeply enough about it, pursue this, and you'll be pursuing your patriotic duty.

flippityfloppityfloo10 karma

Hello! Thank you for coming to do an AMA with us!

A couple of questions for you:

  1. What are your thoughts on the current state of organized crime in Boston? How do you believe it compares to that of the 1980s?

  2. What attracted you to journalism?

  3. What is your favorite place to grab a drink in Boston?

davidboeri15 karma

Thank you, pleasure to do this.

  1. Now, it's more like disorganized crime compared to the 1980s. They are at the bottom of the Mafia gene pool and informants are everywhere.

  2. I was attracted by the search into things that were wrong and uncovering dirt.

  3. My favorite place used to be an Irish bar called The Littlest, which was the size of two coat closets. Now it's not so little, and I don't go there so much. I like Hanover Street in the North End.

ryefashioned9 karma

When all this is finally sorted out in the court, will the public be able to review things like Bulger's FBI file and other documents submitted into evidence?

davidboeri11 karma

Much of the evidence will be available. We are putting up lots of it ourselves on our website, bulger.wbur.org, as it's put out in court and as I've accumulated it over the years. Whether the whole story will ever be told is another question. Whether we will ever find out the true depth of the malfeasance and corruption that took place is a real question.

ANewMachine6159 karma

Think Bulger's attorneys are pissed that all their headlines are going to Hernandez this week?

davidboeri11 karma

No. This is a trial with legs. It's going to last until September, maybe longer. It's been 16 years in the making.

MobySick8 karma

Thanks for your work in the worcester teenage girl case. Any comments about that situation?

davidboeri11 karma

Thank you. The Worcester police still have not apologized or accepted responsibility for what happened. Lawyers for Nga Truong have sued the city and the city's response, incredibly, is that her own lawyers were responsible for her spending so much time in jail.

LDexter7 karma

What do you make of the claims that Bulger was an informant for the FBI? Ones that Bulger denies to this very moment?

davidboeri12 karma

There are 700 pages of files that the government has of reports from Bulger. He claims he wasn't an informant. The question is, could anybody have fabricated 700 reports with his name. The evidence shows he met with agents at their houses, at his partner (Stephen Flemmi)'s house, and at hotels all over the city. And there are multiple witnesses.

It seems ludicrous to believe that in fact he didn't give up names and that somebody fabricated all the names he did give. He insists he was not a rat. Maybe it's semantics. Other people, including agents, said he wanted to be considered a "consultant" or "advisor." He may not be a rat, but it would appear he was the biggest canary. He talked about everybody.

LDexter8 karma

Based on just this information it seems he's most likely assessed his fate now. If this is true, and he is outed by his contacts, where does this place him in terms of federal protection (if at all)? Can he bargain for a cell at ADX in Florence, CO? Will he be given a leaner sentence and place in say, Allenwood or Canaan Federal Penitentiary under guard?

davidboeri11 karma

No, he's going to get no breaks. The point is: What's become clear at this trial is the two things that are most important to Bulger is that people don't believe he killed women, as the government charges, and they don't believe he was an informant.

His outbursts in court have involved allegations he's an informant. Remember, especially in Irish culture, there's nothing lower than a "tout," the Irish term for rat or canary.

Zittell6 karma

Hello Mr. Boeri! Thanks for the AMA! I haven't been living in Boston that long, so I'll admit that I don't know as much about the case as I'd like to. So, I just went on Wikipedia to learn more, and I read that "Local Folklore depicted Bulger as a Robin Hood-style social bandit dedicated to protecting the neighborhood and its residents." How do you feel about this characterization? Where did it come from? For a man accused of 19 murders, this seems awfully generous...

Also a more general question - it sounds like he made a lot of money in his 'career,' I was wondering if you have any idea what happens to it if he is convicted/if there is any left?

davidboeri10 karma

Hi Zittell. That was a carefully created myth that protected Bulger from the wrath of a community that had the highest rate of drug overdoses and drug use in the city of Boston. The line was that Robin Hood, Bulger, kept drugs out of Southie when in fact now we find out that he was charging rent and profiting on all drug dealers bringing their product into the neighborhood.

Indeed, in his trial, in the opening statements, his own lawyers acknowledged he was a major drug trafficker and made millions upon millions upon millions of dollars. The Robin Hood myth is just that, and now even people in Southie don't believe it.

In response to your other question, the federal government has its hands on $822,000 that they found in a hole in the wall in his apartment in Santa Monica when they arrested him. He won't be getting that back. The belief is he has millions more tucked away in safe deposit boxes. The question is: Can they find the boxes?

greyghostx5 karma

A long time WBUR listener and I've loved your work whenever I've run into it. My absolute favorite is "Anatomy Of A Bad Confession" http://www.wbur.org/2011/12/07/worcester-coerced-confession-i

As for Bulger, there's an element of romance about his character that has kept his story alive all along. Do you think any of that will survive this trial or have we seen the final downfall of the man?

davidboeri4 karma

Hi greyghostx,

Thank you.

Let's hope that none of it survives this trial. You'll hear accounts of him strangling women with his hands, of him blowing people's brains out at close range, of unimaginable cruelty.

waldowilly5 karma

Never enough Whitey stories... why was Jimmy never arrested for Valhala?

davidboeri7 karma

Good question. For those who don't know about the Valhalla, it was fake American fishing boat that was running guns across the Atlantic to the coast of Ireland in 1984. It was intercepted by the Irish Navy because of a tip from a MI6 mole in the IRA. It was stopped with guns from America.

Although Bulger had put a number guns on board, it was a small part of the shipment. They weren't able to be traced back to anybody on this end.

ChermsMcTerbin5 karma

What's the atmosphere like at WBUR? I love On Point and I'm excited for my local station to start carrying Here and Now.

davidboeri7 karma

People here show great commitment to covering the news. Why else would we be here at 6 PM, drinking time across New England?

Iphotographboobs5 karma

I've read that you spent several years as a commercial fisherman in and around Boston. You also spent some time in Alaska covering Eskimo's. What the hell occurred in between that time and your time becoming a crime reporter? What made you change so dramatically from one end of the spectrum to the other.? What incited you to follow Jim Bulger.?

davidboeri10 karma

All these stories involved conflict. In Alaska, the government decided that Eskimos who had hunted whales for 2000 years couldn't hunt them anymore, without ever involving Eskimo whalers in the decision.

In the case of organized crime in Boston, which also involved ethnic subgroups and local cultures, the Department of Justice decided that ending the Mafia was a bigger priority than ending Irish organized crime. So the government took it upon itself to decide who was going to win and who was going to lose and in that process innocent people died.

I was fascinated that a small man, like Bulger, could be turned into a big man because the government decided to protect him and to aid and abet him in its efforts to take out the Mafia.

Iphotographboobs3 karma

So that's why the Kevin Weeks and Bulger Wikipedia page have all Italian names under their kill lists.

davidboeri10 karma

That's really not the case at all. According to the charges, Bulger was an equal opportunity killer. He is alleged to have killed people from Southie, with names like "McGonagle" and "O'Brien." He was involved in fratricidal gang wars in Southie long before he became an informant.

finster_davenport5 karma

Thank you very much for taking the time to do this AMA. I appreciate it.

Any stories that you can relate to us about when your life was being threatened?

davidboeri8 karma

I got phone calls. Interestingly enough, the threats really came when I was reporting on William Bulger, Whitey's brother and the former Senate president in Massachusetts.

My friends told me to put pebbles on my hood, to see if anybody had touched the car. In recent history, Bulger's partner Stephen Flemmi and Frank Salemme had put a bomb under the lawyer who represented of a cooperating witness for the government.

I didn't take the threats too seriously ... I've been more concerned, honestly, about heat from the FBI and the DOJ, who haven't liked our reporting.

Mrs_Boxdog5 karma

Hi David, thank you for your excellent work. Do you think Bulger still has any influence or connections? If I were a juror, should I be worried at all? What about Bulger and this trial have surprised or astonished you the most?

davidboeri5 karma

No, by now Bulger is a mob of one. He's an army in his own mind.

I can't say categorically that a juror shouldn't be worried, but Bulger has no support in this city anymore. He's been out of power ever since he left in 1995. His organization collapsed.

In response to your last question, he looks smaller than I thought. Reduced to hissing expletives.

doduo4 karma

  1. Can you tell me how you felt -- as someone who's been covering this story for three decades -- on the day he was found? I'm curious to know.

  2. What can we expect from Kevin Weeks on the stand?

  3. I'm loving the big online spreads you guys have had for this story (and Bad Chemistry, etc) BUR is a radio station, obviously, so it's interesting and cool to see an NPR affiliate invest in visually inspired web storytelling. Are you guys planning to expand and do more mixed media stuff? And in a world where newspapers are firing photography staffers and asking reporters to bring back iPhone photos, and sites like Boston.com are ramping up their video content, how valuable do you think it is for a young journalist to be talented across multiple media that did not previously intersect? This young journalist wants to know.

Thanks, Mr. Boeri! I'm a huge fan of what you guys do over there.

davidboeri5 karma

  1. Truthfully, I had been through so many false reports of Whitey sightings that I was completely dismissive at first, at quarter to midnight, when my news director called. I had taken hundreds of phone calls in my career, about people claiming to have seen Whitey. When the news director told me it was the Associated Press reporting, I jumped out of bed and headed to the office. My thought that next day was for the families of all the victims, who had gone so long without anyone being brought to justice, and for the good cops who had fought so long against either bad cops, ineffective cops, or indifferent cops.

  2. Kevin Weeks. He's been on the stand twice before, he has told a consistent story based on his involvement and/or witness of murders by Bulger and Flemmi at close range. He is going to implicate the two in at least five murders, as well as extortion and violence against drug dealers, bookies, loan sharks, and legitimate businessmen.

  3. The platform is exciting, and as a TV guy for 25 years, I love the opportunity of bringing my old video and files together with my audio work at WBUR. But for me, ultimately, it's all about the story.

ziptoro4 karma

Do you think that Billy Bulger will be implicated in any way during this trial, perhaps for collusion ? or is he on either the defense or prosecution's witness list?..was always fascinated by the dynamic between those two brothers.

davidboeri6 karma

He most certainly isn't on either of the witness lists. He's been conspicuously absent from court. The testimony so far has been embarrassing. Yesterday, former FBI supervisor John Morris testified that John Connolly, who was Bulger's FBI handler, aspired to be the commissioner of police in Boston. Bill Bulger acknowledged under questioning before Congress that he may have recommended Connolly for the job. Connolly was later convicted of corruption. Had Connolly become commissioner, Whitey Bulger would have been able to control both the Boston Police and the FBI.

ziptoro4 karma

wow, quite the revelation..thank you for taking the time to do this AMA and answering my question. When Whitey won the lottery a while back, I was just amazed that his brother could keep a straight face while going about his political business every day.

davidboeri6 karma

Unbelievably, this would seem to be the case of just dumb luck. One of Bulger's associates bought a bunch of season tickets to the lottery. His right hand man, Kevin Weeks, told me that they handed them out. There were only two tickets left when Michael Linskey picked one. They would tell people, "If you win, we're in on it." Linskey won, the state treasurer nearly had a heart attack over the perceived integrity of the lottery system, they tried to stop payment, but ultimately came to the conclusion that it was just dumb luck, they really had won randomly. Bulger got one-sixth of the $14 million prize.

Of course, another way of looking at it was: What would have happened to Michael Linskey if he HADN'T offered a share to Bulger?

waldowilly4 karma

Was Patrick Nee granted Amnesty in the Good Friday peace accord?

davidboeri4 karma

Pat Nee is a son of Ireland and a devoted IRA supporter. He was involved in running guns. I'm not clear on his status regarding the Good Friday accords. I should say, he has been implicated during this trial in numerous murders. He's a free man, and Bulger seems to have a particular animosity to him. Law enforcement officials consider him an active organized crime figure.

waldowilly3 karma

Any idea why Ireland has not revoked Jimmy's Irish passport?

davidboeri2 karma

I don't know what his passport situation is, but I don't imagine that the IRA is going to be holding any fundraisers or support meetings because he's a "stand-up guy."

whynotjoin3 karma

Thanks for doing an AMA!

As the trial continues, do you think that we will hear more not only from direct victims of Whitey and Irish organized crime, but the "indirect" victims as well- such as those who grew up in the neighborhood during that time but weren't directly involved at all with Whitey and his organization?

Also, have you read Michael Patrick MacDonald's All Souls/Easter Rising? What did you think of it/them?

davidboeri5 karma

As the trial goes on, we're going to hear from more family members of the murder victims. We're going to hear from people who were extorted by him—bookies and drug dealers that had to pay him rent.

But we're not going to hear from average citizens who lived in the Town and who indirectly suffered from his reign of power, which met so little resistance.

As for MPM, he drew a picture of drug abuse, suicides, and the plague of drugs that we now know Bulger profited from and even engaged.

csimison2 karma

Hi David,

Did you hear the liar comment; do you sense that Bulger is coming at all undone as the trial proceeds?

davidboeri5 karma

As I've said before, it would appear that Bulger is most concerned about just two things, both involving his image as a bad guy. It would appear he wants to be known as a bad guy who never killed women and who never was an informant. His old friend and fellow inmate at Alcatraz said Bulger wanted to be thought of as a "classic criminal."

Unfortunately for Bulger, classic criminals don't have 700 page informant files, or government witnesses who say they saw him strangle women.

davidboeri3 karma

Is he coming undone? The liar comment shows where his priority is.

Polite_Werewolf1 karma

If there was a zombie outbreak, what would be your zombie plan?

davidboeri18 karma

Find the zombie informants and eliminate them.