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Accused mobster Bulger swears at ex-FBI agent in court

Accused Boston crime boss James "Whitey" Bulger (L) and his girlfriend Catherine are shown during their arraignment in federal court in Los
Accused Boston crime boss James "Whitey" Bulger (L) and his girlfriend Catherine are shown during their arraignment in federal court in Los

By Daniel Lovering

BOSTON (Reuters) - Accused mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger cursed at a former FBI supervisor in court on Thursday and called him a liar as the prosecution witness described how Bulger got special treatment for being a government snitch.

Retired Agent John Morris detailed a cozy relationship between a corrupted FBI and Bulger's gangsters during the 1980s that included dinner parties, envelopes of cash and favors that kept Winter Hill Gang members out of jail and agents flush.

"You're a fucking liar," Bulger said, as Morris testified.

Once one of the most feared men in Boston, Bulger, 83, is charged with killing or ordering the murders of 19 people as head of Boston's violent Winter Hill Gang, which ran extortion and gambling rackets through the 1970s and '80s.

The trial, which began June 12, has transported the jury back to a time when machine-gun-toting gangsters shot associates who talked too much and buried bodies under bridges in a bloody struggle for control of the criminal underworld.

But it also has shown a dark side of the FBI, some of whose former agents are said to have traded information with Bulger and his gang that helped them elude arrest and snuff out "rats" who spoke to police.

Morris said he and fellow ex-FBI agent John Connolly - who cultivated Bulger as an informant - used to have Bulger and his associate Steven "The Rifleman" Flemmi over for home-cooked meals where they would trade information and gifts.

"He (Connolly) wanted Mr. Bulger to be comfortable," Morris testified. "He wanted it handled in a manner informants typically are not handled."

Morris said Connolly over time looked increasingly like some of the gangsters he was meant to be taking off the streets, suggesting he may have been taking big payments.

"He was wearing much more jewelry. He was almost showy in the way he dressed, the way he carried himself," he said, adding later that Connolly had purchased a home in South Boston, acquired a second home on Cape Cod and acquired "a pretty good-size boat."

Morris said he felt pressure to play the game. He said he accepted a crate of wine with $1,000 stuffed in it from Connolly, and an envelope containing $5,000 that Bulger handed to him at a dinner party. He also admitted to informing Bulger and Flemmi of a plan to arrest them.

"I felt helpless. I didn't know what to do. I felt awful about everything," he said.

Morris, who now works as a part-time wine consultant, was granted immunity in 1998 exchange for his testimony in hearings about FBI misconduct.

After Bulger swore at Morris, prosecutors called on U.S. District Judge Denise Casper to admonish him. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Kelly said Bulger had "spent his whole life intimidating people" but was not allowed to do so in court.

Casper said she had not heard the outburst, though others in the courtroom did. It was unclear whether jurors heard him. Defense attorney J.W. Carney said he would speak to Bulger during the break.

Bulger has adamantly denied providing any information to law enforcement officials, contending that he paid them for tips but offered none of his own.

Bulger's story has fascinated Boston for decades, and inspired the 2006 Academy Award-winning Martin Scorsese film "The Departed," in which Jack Nicholson played a character loosely based on Bulger.

He fled Boston after a 1994 tip from former FBI agent John Connolly that authorities were preparing to arrest him. He evaded capture for 16 years, even though his name was prominent on the FBI's "Most Wanted" list of fugitives.

He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. He faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted.

Connolly is serving a 40-year prison term for murder and racketeering after he was found to be tipping off Winter Hill associates, in return for information used against the Italian mafia operating in New England.

Bulger's attorneys have spent much of the past two days attacking the reliability of the FBI's 700-page informant file on him, which they contend was fabricated by Connolly to provide a cover for his frequent meetings with the gang boss.

(Editor's note: Please be advised that this story contains language in paragraph 3 that may be offensive to some readers; adds new testimony on alleged FBI corruption)

(Writing by Scott Malone and Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe, Bill Trott and Douglas Royalty)

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