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Developer describes threats in ‘Whitey’ Bulger trial

Posted at 8:40 PM, Jul 25, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-25 19:57:02-04

By Deborah Feyerick and Kristina Sgueglia, CNN

BOSTON (CNN) — Pounding his fist on the witness stand Thursday, real-estate developer Richard Buccheri, 73, described the day he came face-to-face with James “Whitey” Bulger.

Bulger is charged in the deaths of 19 people during some two decades when prosecutors say he ran Boston’s Irish mob. He also faces charges of extortion, racketeering and money laundering.

He had called Buccheri to a meeting to discuss the positioning of a fence on a property Bulger associate, Kevin Weeks, wanted to buy, Buccheri said.

He said they had barely sat down when Bulger banged on the table and told Buccheri, “You know Rich, sometimes you should just keep your mouth shut. You know Kevin Weeks is like a surrogate son.”

Buccheri’s opinion on the positioning of the fence was not favorable to Weeks.

Raising his two fingers to his mouth to demonstrate, Buccheri said Bulger “takes a shotgun off the table and sticks it in my mouth. Then he took it out, punched me in the shoulder and said, ‘Richard you’re a stand-up guy. I’m not going to kill you.”

But then, he said, Bulger “puts a 45 to my head” and demands $200,000 in 30 days, “threatening to kill me and my family.”

Buccheri said he cut a check for the 200-grand which Bulger’s henchman, Steve Flemmi cashed days later.

Flemmi finished up his six days of testimony Thursday. He described a decades-long journey that included extortion, meetings with FBI agents and slayings.

Flemmi testified he was by Bulger’s side for most of it, saying both were FBI informants. He described hundreds of occasions when he and Bulger met with FBI agents.

The defense suggested Wednesday that Flemmi would say anything to sweeten his deal with prosecutors and possibly get out of prison, even though the government has never raised that as a possibility.

Flemmi was arrested in 1995 and pleaded guilty in 2003 to 10 murders.

The man described as Bulger’s FBI handler, John Connolly, turned out to be corrupt. Authorities say, he accepted thousands of dollars from Bulger and his crew in payoffs and, in turn, tipped them off to law enforcement activity. Connolly was convicted of federal and state crimes and is serving 40 years in Florida.

Despite Connolly’s conviction, Bulger’s lawyers have argued in this trial that he was not an informant.

Authorities say Connolly, who was raised in the same housing projects as Bulger, cut a deal with the alleged mob figure in 1975. Bulger would give information about the Italian mob — the FBI’s prime target — while Bulger, authorities said, got names of rival gang members and other informants who had dirt on him. He is accused of killing those people.

Without that FBI protection, prosecutors say, Bulger and Flemmi’s reign of terror would not have been as successful or lasted as long as it did, from the early 1970s through the mid-1990s.

Bulger rose to the top of the notorious Winter Hill gang, prosecutors say, before he went into hiding for more than 16 years after the crooked FBI agent told him in December 1994 he was about to be indicted on federal racketeering charges.

He was captured in Santa Monica, California, two years ago, living under a false name with his girlfriend in an apartment in the oceanside city. The girlfriend, Catherine Greig, was sentenced to eight years in prison last summer for helping him evade capture.

At his arraignment in July 2011 he pleaded not guilty to the 19 murder charges and 13 other counts.

Through his lawyers, the 83-year-old defendant had argued he was given immunity by the FBI and a former prosecutor. The judge dismissed the claim, saying any purported immunity was not a defense against crimes Bulger faces.

Besides the slayings, Bulger is accused of using violence, force and threats to shake down South Boston’s bookmakers, loan sharks and drug dealers. The Irish mob allegedly laundered its ill-gotten gains though liquor stores, bars and other property it owned in South Boston.