The day after James "Whitey" Bulger was captured on June 23, 2011, I happened to be in Santa Monica with my Boston ad agency peeps shooting a TV commercial. We immediately jumped in our unfabulous rental car and set out to find the apartment building where Whitey and his GF had been living unrecognized for years and were finally apprehended. We figured there'd be news station vans, reporters and a crowd of looky-loos to alert us when we were close. Instead all we found when we reached the Princess Eugenia Apartments were two guys in Bruins jerseys posing for photos in front of the building. Wow... we thought. Is the arrest of Whitey Bulger only a big deal if you're from Boston?
Apparently not, as NY filmmaker Joe Berlinger has made a documentary for CNN that will air nationally this Thursday at 9 p.m. and bring to light some shocking revelations about the case. Whether you're from Boston or not, you will want to tune in.
The film takes you behind the scenes of the United States vs. James J. Bulger 2013 trial and brings to light disturbing evidence of corruption. Now I know what you're thinking. Tell me something I don't already know, Chris. Yes, Whitey was as corrupt as they come: murder, extortion, racketeering... the list goes on. But I'm not talking about the reign of corruption in South Boston. I'm talking about the reign of corruption in the federal government. The freakin FBI!
There was always talk that the fibbies looked the other way when it came to Bulger because he was an informant. But was he really? Based on what I saw in this documentary, the answer was no... or at least more no than yes.
Watching the screening tonight at BC Law School, I sat there dumbfounded as the facts were laid out by the defense. I expected going in that there'd be moments during the film where I might feel sick to my stomach, but I figured the catalysts would be the methods Whitey and his henchmen used to murder his victims -- not evidence that the FBI was on his payroll and let him kill with impunity. We count on the federal government to protect us. If you can't trust them, who can you trust? Maybe I'm totally naïve but I honestly thought this type of shit only happens in the movies. Okay, well technically this documentary is a movie, but you know what I mean.
I don't want to say too much and ruin it for the rest of you. But if you think this is going to be "just another Whitey Bulger documentary" -- one that rehashes his days as boss of the Winter Hill Gang and details a laundry list of his terrible crimes -- you are sorely mistaken. It's all about the ins and outs of the trial, what happened, what didn't happen, and what went on behind the scenes. You'll hear phone conversations between Whitey and his attorney -- the first time ever captured on film -- as well as interviews with the defense team, prosecution, witnesses for both sides, as well as the victims' surviving family members.
The trial, which was less about whether Bulger was guilty or innocent and more about whether or not he was actually an informant for the FBI, left the families of the victims and anyone following the case largely unsatisfied. An informant or not, what Berlinger's film makes clear is that the federal government let Whitey Bulger get away with murder. Literally.