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His Brother's Keeper

Today's Boston Globe has two editorials discussing the criminal career of mob boss, sociopath, and all-around monster James "Whitey" Bulger, and in particular the burdens it put on his younger, WIlliam "Billy" Bulger. Where Whitey went into crime, Billy went to law school, then politics. (OK, maybe just a higher class of crime.) And both eventually rose to being the undisputed kingpins of their chosen field.

And all along, Billy said or did nothing publicly about his brother's reign of terror.

One writer -- a noted defense attorney -- says there was nothing wrong with that. While, legally, the relationship between the brothers had no protected status, it's human nature to not want to harm your brother. Silverglate argues that Billy had no legal obligation to inform on or take any kind of action to protect the state from Whitey's depradations (he's facing 19 murders, and that's almost guaranteed to be just the tip of the iceberg.)

Meanwhile, a Globe columnist takes a different angle. He says that Billy had ample opportunities to try to at least curb Whitey's crimes, and instead actually quietly helped him in many small ways. And for that, he deserves no sympathy.

As atrocious as it sounds, Silverglate is correct. Billy had no legal obligation to hinder his brother or assist the authorities in any way. As long as he managed to evade "aiding and abetting" Whitey, he's legally in the clear.

But what Silverglate glosses over is that Billy had made other binding obligations. He took and re-took his oath of office as a legislator over decades, pledging to the people of Massachusetts to uphold the laws of the Commonwealth. Instead, he betrayed that trust, over and over again, by turning a blind eye to his brother's crimes. Indeed, it can easily be argued that he has a great deal of blood on his hands, as he could have helped the authorities bring his brother to heel before he killed many of his victims.

And he had to have known that his mere possession of the political power he wielded gave Whitey considerable aid and comfort, as people expected Billy to use it to protect his big brother. And not only did Billy never disabuse anyone of that belief, he openly joked about it and, on occasion, actually did take actions that protected Whitey. Again, I refer to the tragic, abominable treatment of Trooper Bill Johnson.

Billy had a choice. Loyalty to his brother, or loyalty to his office, his constituents, and the law. But instead of choosing, he did both -- but whenever there was a conflict, his loyalty to his brother prevailed. Hell, it wasn't even a choice. It was never even close.

Morally, he should have resigned his office. But he never did. And hardly anyone in a position to push him did so -- not only was he a Massachusetts Democrat, he was arguably the most powerful Massachusetts Democrat. And his brother was not only a cold-blooded sociopath and serial killer, but also the most powerful figure in Massachusetts organized crime.

This is why we have rules against conflicts of interest. It's not only to prevent situations like this from arising, but to protect people from having to make such choices.

But not in Massachusetts.

And you thought the Kennedys were bad? Even with all their numbers, they got nothing on the Bulgers.

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Comments (10)

Everyone knows that Billy's... (Below threshold)
jim m:

Everyone knows that Billy's job was to provide protection for Whitey and his friends. These weren't just 'small' favors but they were one big favor over many years protecting and promoting the welfare of a criminal organization.

Whitey Bulger faces charges in Florida and Oklahoma where they have the death penalty. With any luck he will be tried in one of those states first and he can really find something common with the Kennedy's, being dead.

There's no proof that Billy... (Below threshold)
Chico:

There's no proof that Billy ever knew of his brother's crimes.

On the other hand, the FBI (more than one agent - at least Connolly, Morris and Rico) knew of those crimes, covered them up, aided and abetted them, and sat by as innocent guys accused of Whitey's crimes stayed in prison for decades.

As usual, Jay Tea misses the main point of the story. Whitey would be an other two-bit hood, if not for the FBI. Did you miss Dan Burton's Congressional hearings a decade ago?

Nothing to see here. The s... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

Nothing to see here. The same state had 'authorities' who covered up the drunk-driving death of a young woman.

But only because of the last name of the drunk driver.

From Billy's own mouth of h... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

From Billy's own mouth of his having contact and would help him isn't good enough for some.

JT, at least the Bolgers never tried to hide their criminality. The Kennedy's tried to disguise theirs. People died by both families. When Joe Kennedy was in the rum running business with organized crime, he is also responsible for all the deaths that occured by the men he did business with. ww

Meh, it's the Democrat way ... (Below threshold)
Gmac:

Meh, it's the Democrat way in Massachusetts.

"The Departed."... (Below threshold)
davidt:

"The Departed."

Another example of the law-... (Below threshold)
Madalyn:

Another example of the law-abiding, truly American citizen victimized by not only the criminals, but their elected officials. RIP Bill Johnson. You are the hero that was destroyed by the people you were protecting.

Take a look at today's Bost... (Below threshold)
clearmind:

Take a look at today's Boston Globe and see the article praising the Boston legal community for banding together with praise for the two prominent lawyers who are offering their legal services to this creep (Bulger). Prominent defense lawyers praising other prominent defense lawyers is like Gadaffi praising Ahmadinajad... or Biden praising Kerry - take your pick

Jay, can you summarize the ... (Below threshold)
Murgatroyd:

Jay, can you summarize the Bill Johnson info for those of us who have no desire to join Google Groups?

WildWillie: Joe Kennedy was... (Below threshold)

WildWillie: Joe Kennedy wasn't "in the rum running business with organized crime."

Joe Kennedy was organized crime in the rum running business.

And his crime family was ever after organized crime.

And their heirs still are.




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