Whitey Bulger Case Shows Law Enforcement Dark Side

Football coaching icon Vince Lombardi is credited with observing that in sports, “winning is the only thing.” In our legal system, on the other hand, winning is not everything – seeing that justice is done, is. Yet, as the still-unfolding “Whitey” Bulger case reveals, too often law enforcement and prosecutors adopt a winning-at-all-costs mentality; sometimes with tragic consequences for innocent people.

James “Whitey” Bulger is the Boston-raised gangster connected with the infamous “Winter Hill Gang,” and who had been on the lam for 16 years before being arrested recently in California. Bulger played both sides – serving also as an FBI informant, even as he bought off law enforcement to avoid prosecution for his myriad crimes, including 19 murders.

Ordinarily, the capture of a Top Ten suspect like Bulger would be cause for celebration. However, few if any current or former FBI agents connected with the investigation have been seen hoisting a celebratory glass of the bubbly. As one observer explained to the Boston Globe, “It was a big problem when they didn’t have Whitey. It’s a bigger problem now that they do.”

During his time as an informant, Bulger had used his FBI handlers to weed out his rivals; allowing him to expand an already profitable enterprise. In turn, his handlers looked the other way as he committed violent crimes and peddled illicit drugs.

Undoubtedly, reports that Bulger already is talking is not welcome news to persons connected with his old Winter Hill Gang. And the fear in the FBI is that Bulger’s arrest could replay the embarrassment and shame that fell on the bureau a decade ago.

The sordid mess reads like a Hollywood script; and in fact provided the basis for the 2006 Oscar-winning film, The Departed. For victims of the Bulger-FBI cabal, however, the results were all-too real.

In fact, evidence that four men convicted of murder in Boston three decades earlier were in fact innocent, prompted a 2000 investigation by the House of Representatives. The inquiry was led by then-chairman of the Government Reform and Oversight Committee, Dan Burton (R-IN); I was vice-chairman of the committee.

The committee’s investigation delved into how the FBI could allow men it knew to be innocent, could spend 30 years in jail. During the hearings, a former FBI agent, H. Paul Rico, who knew the men were innocent but did not intervene because of his connections to those responsible, was offered the opportunity to apologize for his role in sending the innocent men to prison. Rico declined, and callously replied, “What do you want, tears?”

Rico subsequently was indicted for his part in the 1981 murder of Roger Wheeler, allegedly carried out at the direction of Bulger and other gang members in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Local investigators complained the FBI tried to prevent them from solving the crime because it was protecting the mobsters responsible.

Rico would die before ever standing trial; but in 2007 a federal judge ordered the government to pay more than $100 million in damages to the wrongly-convicted men, two of whom died while incarcerated.

John Connolly, another former FBI agent connected to the Winter Hill Gang, was convicted in 2002 for racketeering. Just six years later, Connolly was convicted of second-degree murder for his part in tipping off Bulger to a witness in the case being built against him. Bulger and his associates had the witness killed.

The FBI’s blind zeal to catch bad guys in this instance has been a stain on an excellent law enforcement agency; and ruined the lives of several innocent people in the process. Bulger’s capture hopefully will result in his finally answering for his many crimes. It also should serve as a reminder to all law enforcement officers and prosecutors, that “winning” at all costs is a hollow victory, indeed.

by Bob Barr — The Barr Code

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[...] Whitey Bulger Case Shows Law Enforcement Dark SideAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Yet, as the still-unfolding “Whitey” Bulger case reveals, too often law enforcement and prosecutors adopt a winning-at-all-costs mentality; sometimes with tragic consequences for innocent people. James “Whitey” Bulger is the Boston-raised gangster …and more » [...]

[...] Whitey Bulger Case Shows Law Enforcement Dark SideAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Yet, as the still-unfolding “Whitey” Bulger case reveals, too often law enforcement and prosecutors adopt a winning-at-all-costs mentality; sometimes with tragic consequences for innocent people. James “Whitey” Bulger is the Boston-raised gangster … [...]

Carlosgvv

July 11th, 2011
8:35 am

Winning at all costs explains the Atlanta school cheating scandal, why politicians have allowed themselves to be bought by Big Business, this FBI story and many other sorry aspects of our society. Unfortunately, this mentality is so entrenched it is not likely to go away anytime in the foreseeable future.

Big Al

July 11th, 2011
8:57 am

When will the police dash camera footage of Hines Ward be made public so that we, as we saw this time last year with Damon Evans, can again see the “benefits” of a UGA degree?

Perry Mason

July 11th, 2011
10:12 am

This is great Bob. Thanks for reporting the news.

seabeau

July 11th, 2011
10:37 am

This is another great example of a Federal agency misusing its authority and power!!

Dave R.

July 11th, 2011
12:40 pm

“It was a big problem when they didn’t have Whitey. It’s a bigger problem now that they do.”

Truer words were never spoken, Bob. The Boston office of the FBI was riddled for years with agents and others who were more than willing to look the other way for Whitey Bulger in attempts to catch others who may or may not have actually been guilty of a crime.

That Whitey’s brother Billy virtually ran the state legislature (if not the state itself) was certainly an impediment to corralling Whitey early on, or exposing the abuse of the local FBI chapter.

Tina Trent

July 11th, 2011
2:11 pm

One bunch of mobsters dropping dimes on another bunch of mobsters. A handful of rogue agents — in a vast sea of under-prosecuted criminals. Boston politics and courtrooms wildly tilted in favor of defendants, mixed with a certain political party’s support for the Irish mob. There is no bigger lesson here, unless you count the fact that real sentencing for the crimes Bulger committed early in his career would have prevented all this, and more.

But, hey, blame law enforcement. Not the mob, not the politicians — just law enforcement. Don’t bother to mention that when Bulger was running wild, less than one and a half percent of serious crimes ended in incarceration — however brief — for anyone. So any insinuations of systemic government persecution and over-vigilant prosecutions doesn’t even barely pass the smell test.

Why doesn’t the AJC require Bob Barr to disclose his affiliations with anti-law enforcement advocacy groups?

MrLiberty

July 11th, 2011
3:12 pm

Government power is the root of all evil. The same tallents that are applied to carrying water for the state apparatus could just as easily be applied to working for a private enterprise devoted to citizen safety, crime investigation, and the like. The state no longer actually cares about those things, but rather only protecting its monopoly on force. As a result, the abuse of state power is becomming more and more commonplace among its employees at all levels of government (including law enforcement – no longer called peace officers).

The overbearing force that the federal agencies are able to exert inherently creates the opportunities for greater abuse that this case has revealed.

The problems of abuse of force will not go away until this monopoly on force is taken away.

Casey Anthony

July 11th, 2011
3:58 pm

I hope the poor guy can get off if he is guilty. I can recommend an attorney.

WOW

July 11th, 2011
4:20 pm

Dave R.

I noticed you were hacked by one of Bookmans resident retards a few days ago. Gotta love the stupid people over there.

WOW

July 11th, 2011
5:02 pm

…and of course the stupid people here too…dang I hate being stupid.

WOW(the real one)

July 11th, 2011
5:08 pm

Well, looks like one of Bookman’s retards came over here and done stoled my blog handle. Too bad Bob Barr is MIA.

Guido

July 11th, 2011
6:43 pm

Good article Bob, a lot of background that we’d never read in the AJC.

WOW(the real one)

July 12th, 2011
10:31 am

Does gitmo stuff headed my way is da brain dead ’nuff 4 me. ddduuuhhh. I retard

DebbieDoRight

July 12th, 2011
5:23 pm

I’m an idiot.

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