James "Whitey" Bulger in a 2011 booking photo.
Whitey Bulger declined to take the witness stand Friday but had his say anyway — calling his federal murder trial a sham and telling the judge: “Do what you want with me.”
Bulger, the reputed boss of a ruthless gang that ruled the streets of South Boston a generation ago, stood in court to answer the judge’s question about whether he would testify. Asked whether he understood the decision, he said he did. Then he added his take on the proceedings.
“As far as I’m concerned, I didn’t get a fair trial,” he said, according to a reporter for WHDH, the NBC affiliate in Boston. “Do what you want with me.”
A relative of one his alleged victims shouted from her seat in the gallery, “You're a coward!”
The jury wasn’t around to hear it, but the exchange brought a compelling end to a trial that hasn’t lacked for drama. It has included a colorful cast with nicknames like The Rifleman and The Executioner, and graphic testimony about strangulations and hit men has been peppered with profane outbursts.
After her exchange with Bulger, the judge, Denise Casper of U.S. District Court, brought jurors in and excused them for the weekend. She told them to be ready for a long day Monday — at least three hours of closing arguments for each side. Deliberations are to begin Tuesday.
Bulger, 83, whose first name is James, spent 16 years on the run -- and a turn on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted" list -- before he was captured with his girlfriend in Santa Monica, Calif., in 2011. He is charged with taking part in 19 murders, along with racketeering, extortion, money-laundering, drugs and weapons.
Prosecutors called former hit men and smugglers as part of a seven-week case aimed at portraying Bulger as the brutal leader of Boston’s Winter Hill gang during the 1970s and ‘80s.
Bulger’s lawyer has described him as a small-time drug-dealer and loan shark — not the kingpin who prosecutors say kept a stranglehold on South Boston for decades and inspired Jack Nicholson’s character in “The Departed.” Bulger has also denied that he was an informant for the FBI.
Earlier this week, the defense released a passel of photos designed to show Bulger’s softer side — grinning as a handsome youngster, mugging next to the Stanley Cup with a former player for hockey’s Montreal Canadiens, even cradling a baby goat.
“I don’t know if being an animal lover is going to salvage his reputation,” one of the prosecutors, Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Wyshak, complained to the judge.
Among the many stark moments in the trial was when a witness, Richard Buccheri, told the court that Bulger threatened him with a shotgun in the 1980s: “He slammed the table. Then he takes a shotgun that was on the table and sticks it in my mouth.” He added: “He said he wanted 200 — he meant $200,000.”
Another day of testimony in July devolved into an expletive-laced shouting match between Bulger and a prosecution witness: Kevin Weeks, said to be Bulger’s former enforcer, who called him a rat.
At the invocation of the word “rat,” Bulger spat: “F--- you!”
Weeks yelled back: “F--- you! What are you going to do!”
This story was originally published on Fri Aug 2, 2013 11:13 AM EDT