James “Whitey” Bulger was found guilty of racketeering and conspiracy Monday, as a Massachusetts jury determined that he was involved in 11 murders during his time as crime boss in South Boston. But according to msnbc’s Lawrence O’Donnell, who grew up in South Boston during that time, the legend is more menacing than the man.
“You will frequently see the phrase ‘reign of terror’ as if Boston was somehow cowering in fear when he was doing his thing in Boston,” said O’Donnell in the Rewrite Monday. “As the evidence showed–except in one instance–you had nothing to fear from Whitey Bulger if you weren’t involved in his life or his business. I know people who Whitey invited into his life who not-so-respectfully declined and they’re all alive today.”
O’Donnell recalled the trouble Whitey Bulger’s brother William had as president of the Massachusetts Senate when Whitey skipped town in 1994. Pressed with questions about his brother’s disappearance in the years that followed, William Bulger elected to plead the fifth, effectively ending his political career.
“One of the Fifth Amendment’s basic functions is to protect innocent men who might be ensnared by ambiguous circumstances,” said Billy Bulger at a hearing before the House Committee on Government Reform in 2002. “I find myself in one of those circumstances.”
Whitey Bulger’s sentencing will occur on Nov. 13. Given the multiple convictions, it’s likely the sentence will last for the rest of the former gangster’s life.
“And so the story of the Bulger brothers ends with Billy and Whitey together again with nothing left to lose,” said O’Donnell, “because Whitey, the cowardly punk with a gun, the murderer, the rat, lost it all for himself and his little brother Billy. And they should always be remembered in Southie and everywhere else as the losers that they are.”