During the seven-week trial, the jury heard a parade of former FBI agents and convicted murderers who testified Bulger was, in fact, an FBI informant – and that this was perhaps the chief reason that he and his gang were able to conduct their reign of crime and terror for so long.
Former FBI agents, as well as Bulger’s former gang confederates, testified to the FBI’s role in protecting Bulger from potential indictments so that he could continue feeding the bureau information about the Italian Mafia operations in Boston. For the FBI, they testified, the single-minded pursuit of La Cosa Nostra in Boston trumped the criminality of Bulger and his fellow criminals.
Among those testifying that Bulger was a top FBI informant were three former Bulger gang associates who confessed to committing murders at his side, including Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, Kevin Weeks, and John Martorano.
Their testimony was instrumental, in part, because of the loss of credibility of the FBI over the years. During the Bulger trial, the government’s own witnesses testified to extensive government corruption by FBI agents in the Boston office, with Bulger and his gang bribing their handlers with tens of thousands of dollars, lavish gifts, and vacations.
Indeed, perhaps the single most significant impact of the Bulger case may be its effect on the FBI itself – and how it chooses to manage its extensive network of criminal informants in the future – so as to avoid having those informants turn the tables and corrupt the crime fighters themselves, several analysts say.
“It’s alarming, the extent of FBI involvement in Bulger’s crimes that this trial has revealed,” says Michael Coyne, associate dean at the Massachusetts School of Law in Andover, Mass., who has followed the trial closely.
In the end, FBI corruption made the prosecution of Bulger more difficult, especially when the jury had to listen to government’s own witnesses talk about FBI agents assisting with the murder of a witness, “or listen to former FBI agents complicit with Mr. Bulger’s criminal enterprise,” Mr. Coyne says.