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Tag Archives: Mr. Bulger

From left, Michael, 42; Tommy, 37; and Patricia Donahue, 66, the sons and widow of Michael Donahue, one of the 19 people James Bulger is accused of killing. Tommy Donahue attends nearly every Bulger-related hearing

BOSTON — Heads turned as the lanky man made his way to the courtroom pews reserved for those who suffer because of the criminal Whitey Bulger. The face of an altar boy masked his rage, and a shirt of powder-blue covered his tattoos, including one evoking the Celtic cross that adorns his father’s gravestone.

Tommy’s here,” one of the many reporters whispered, and others nodded, for it was like saying that all of Boston had just walked into Federal District Court to bear witness.

Tommy Donahue, a union electrician, 37 years old, with one good eye and the nickname of Bagga — as in bag of bones — attends nearly every Bulger-related hearing as the representative of the 19 people Mr. Bulger is accused of killing, especially Michael Donahue, his father. He then tells the news media assembled outside exactly what he thinks, his every word accented with Dorchester distrust.

“To be honest with you,” Mr. Donahue often begins, as if to suggest that in this uncomfortable summer of Bulger, honesty needs to be stipulated.

Mr. Bulger’s 16-year flight from reckoning ended last month when he and his female companion were captured in a Southern California apartment where the interior design included walls stuffed with guns and cash. Among the many killings that dog him, he is charged with committing 10 while he was a paid informer who used the Federal Bureau of Investigation as his personal public relations firm and tip service.

But Mr. Bulger, now 81, returned in shackles to a different Boston. When he vanished in 1995, after being tipped off by his F.B.I. handler, he was South Boston’s charming rogue. Sure, he heads a gang of thugs, the F.B.I. con job went, but he’s nothing like the real bad guys, those Italian mobsters up in the North End. Proud of his Irish heritage, he keeps away the junkies, hands out turkeys, helps the elderly: St. Whitey of Southie.

But during his protracted absence, various newspaper investigations and trials — including the racketeering conviction of his main F.B.I. contact, John Connolly Jr. — ripped away this false image to reveal a vicious sociopath whose complicity in snuffed-out lives was shared by a government agency sworn to protect life.

Now that Mr. Bulger’s return has exhumed a damning past never properly buried in the first place, a half-blind electrician from Dorchester is once again speaking out. And everyone in Boston knows that in this matter, Tommy Donahue has standing.

In the late afternoon of May 11, 1982, a union truck driver, the son of a Boston police officer, found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. That’s how a wise guy later summed it up, in the oops philosophy of the underworld: wrong place, wrong time.

His name was Michael Donahue, and he had stopped off at a Northern Avenue bar hard against Boston Harbor. As he was leaving, he agreed to give a ride to a neighborhood acquaintance, Brian Halloran, a low-level criminal who was informing on Mr. Bulger, which so offended Mr. Connolly of the F.B.I. that he told Mr. Bulger, who was likewise offended. There is only so much betrayal an informer can stand. A hulking mug with small eyes named Kevin Weeks later admitted to acting as Mr. Bulger’s lookout that afternoon. He said that as Michael Donahue began to drive off in his Datsun with Mr. Halloran, Mr. Bulger, in a floppy hat and a long-haired wig, sprayed them with bullets.

Mr. Halloran lingered long enough to implicate, wrongly, a long-haired player from Weymouth named Jimmy Flynn. But Michael Donahue, 32, a civilian in the world who had merely agreed to give someone a ride, died instantly, and so did the childhoods of his three sons: Michael, 13; Shawn, 11; and Tommy, 8.

Just moments earlier, they had been part of a tight Dorchester family made tighter by Tommy’s First Holy Communion on Saturday and a Mother’s Day brunch on Sunday; by fishing trips and Dairy Queen; by a plan to open a bakery and the story of how their mother, Patricia, had fallen in love with their father. She saw him dancing one night, and thought he had soul.

For well more than a decade, the Donahue family believed that Jimmy Flynn from Weymouth had murdered their father. Even after his acquittal in 1986, they figured not guilty did not necessarily mean innocent. The name of James Bulger, also known as Whitey, was never in the equation, thanks to certain F.B.I. agents determined to protect that name at the expense of justice.

Then truth made a break for it. Here came a voluminous report by a federal judge that laid out the heinous pact between gangster and government; the chilling testimony of a former F.B.I. supervisor granted immunity after shaming his office; the horrid recollections of various thugs. One detail: Mr. Bulger was in the habit of yanking teeth from bodies to thwart identification.