In the last bloody hours of Whitey Bulger
The sky was darkening over the federal penitentiary in Hazelton, West Virginia, when a prison van arrived carrying an elderly mobster.
James “Whitey” Bulger had spent the previous eight months in solitary confinement at a Florida detention center. He was once one of the most feared men on the planet, a notorious underworld figure who terrorized the streets of South Boston for more than two decades. But as he languished in solitary confinement, he told a prison staff member that he had “lost the will to live”.
Now he was eager to join the general population in what would be his new home.
“I got two life sentences,” Bulger, 89, told an admissions officer in Hazelton. “I want to go to the yard.”
The employee evaluating it wasn’t sure it was a good idea.
“Are you sure you [want to] go out in the yard, man,” the staffer said. “I saw the movie.”
He was referring to ‘The Departed’ or ‘Black Mass’ – films depicting Bulger’s life of crime and his years as an FBI informant, which the former mob boss has always denied.
“Don’t believe everything you see,” he told the admissions officer.
Bulger got his wish: he was placed in a unit with other inmates.
The next morning he would be dead.
“I am deteriorating”
His final hours were first described in detail in a Justice Department inspector general report released Wednesday.
The review concluded that a remarkable series of questionable decisions and bureaucratic errors led to the murder of Bulger, who was one of the most high-profile inmates in the federal prison system.
Among the missteps cited in the report:
– Bulger’s long stay in solitary confinement at Coleman II Prison in Florida was unjustified and likely contributed to his insistence on joining the general population at Hazelton.
— His medical condition was downgraded to facilitate his transfer to another facility, even though he was 89 years old and suffered from a life-threatening heart condition.
– Many Hazelton inmates knew in advance of Bulger’s impending arrival and even bet on how long he would stay alive, as prison officials had been cavalier in how they shared information about his transfer .
— Despite the target on his back as a federal cooperator, he was placed in a unit with at least one rival mobster from Massachusetts.
“In our view, no BOP inmate transfer, whether a high profile offender or a non-violent offender, should be treated as Bulger’s transfer was in this case,” the report said. Inspector General’s report, referring to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Bulger spent 16 years on the run as one of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives before being captured in California in 2011. He was convicted for his role in 11 murders and a host of other crimes, and sentenced to two life sentences.
Bulger was moved to Florida’s Coleman II federal prison, a facility known to be a safe place for government informants and other inmates who may need special protection, in 2014. He was placed in solitary confinement in March 2018 for threatening a nurse.
After being locked up alone for nearly seven months, he told his case manager he was a broken man.
“I have no quality of life,” Bulger said, according to a suicide risk assessment report cited by the inspector general. “My health is gone. I have chest pains when I eat. Chest pains when I lay down. I feel lethargic all the time. I have memory problems. I deteriorate.
It was September 27, 2018. About 10 days later, he was approved for a move to Hazelton.
Internal emails were sent in mid-October confirming the move. The news somehow spread among inmates at Hazelton, according to the report, a detail that had previously been leaked by federal prosecutors.
“Hey, forgot to tell you Whitey B. fame is coming here,” an inmate wrote in an Oct. 25 email.
Bulger arrived four days later. Before telling the reception staff member that he wanted to be in a regular housing unit, he “seemed a little shaken” and popped nitroglycerin pills, which are used to treat chest pain and which “seemed calm him down,” the staff member told the inspector. general.
At 8:48 p.m. on October 29, Bulger, who used a wheelchair to get around, was escorted to accommodation. The cell equipped to accommodate wheelchairs was at the end of the corridor, which meant that he had to walk past many inmates – at least half the unit, according to the report.
An inmate in the housing block was reportedly particularly interested in Bulger’s arrival.
Fotios “Freddy” Geas, then 52, was an enforcer and hitman for the New England mob in the 1990s and early 2000s, federal prosecutors say, making him a direct rival of Bulger, who was the head of Boston’s mostly Irish mob. .
Geas was serving a life sentence for murder and other crimes. He was an old school mobster – the kind who hated “rats”, according to his lawyer.
And he wasn’t the only inmate in the unit with Mafia ties.
Paul DeCologero, 44, was a member of an organized crime gang led by his uncle on the Massachusetts North Shore, the DeCologero Crew. He was serving a 25-year sentence for racketeering and witness tampering.
They had both been locked up in Hazelton for several years. The facility, known as Misery Mountain, was among the most violent in the federal prison system.
In the six months prior to Bulger’s arrival, two inmates had been killed.
One last picture
Bulger was taken to safety in his cell at 9 p.m. His cellmate was a New York man serving a 30-month sentence for possession of a firearm.
It was not a quiet night in the unit. An inmate told investigators several were “shouting” for an hour that Bulger was a “rat.”
At 6:10 a.m. the cell doors were unlocked, allowing inmates to move freely around the living unit before breakfast.
Bulger’s roommate left his cell at 6:16 a.m. Three minutes later, two inmates entered, identified by federal prosecutors as Geas and DeCologero, and closed the door behind them.
They stayed inside for seven minutes — long enough to beat Bulger to a bloody pulp with a padlock and place him in bed with a blanket pulled over his head, according to federal prosecutors.
A third inmate, Sean McKinnon, who shared a cell with Geas, stood watch, according to federal prosecutors.
Two hours passed before a prison staff member entered the cell and found Bulger’s lifeless body. Prison workers gave him CPR and used a defibrillator, but they couldn’t bring him back to life.
Bulger was pronounced dead at 9:07 a.m.
The night before, while he was being treated at the reception center, a staff member took a picture of him to keep for the file.
“Who knows,” said the old mobster, “it might be my last picture.”