BOSTON — Former Boston crime boss James "Whitey" Bulger was led off to prison Thursday for the rest of his life, accepting his punishment in stone-faced silence as a judge castigated the 84-year-old gangster for his "almost unfathomable" depravity.
Bulger's sentencing for his murderous reign in the 1970s and '80s brought to a close a sordid case that exposed FBI complicity in his crimes and left a trail of devastated families whose loved ones were killed by Bulger or his henchmen.
Bulger, former boss of the Winter Hill Gang, Boston's Irish mob, fled in 1994 after being tipped off by an ex-FBI agent that he was about to be indicted. He was a fugitive for about 16 years until being captured in Santa Monica, Calif., in 2011.
His disappearance became a major embarrassment for the FBI when it was learned that corrupt agents had taken bribes from Bulger and protected him for years while he worked as an FBI informant, feeding information on the rival New England Mafia.
A jury convicted Bulger in August in a broad racketeering case. He was found guilty in 11 of the 19 killings he was accused of, along with dozens of other gangland crimes, including shakedowns and money laundering.
At his sentencing, U.S. District Judge Denise Casper read the names of the 11. She told Bulger she sometimes wished that everyone at his trial were watching a movie because the horrors described, including stranglings and shootings, were so awful.
"The scope, the callousness, the depravity of your crimes are almost unfathomable," she said.
The judge also ordered Bulger to pay $19.5 million in restitution to the victims' families and to forfeit an additional $25.2 million to the government, based on prosecutors' estimate of how much his gang took in from drugs, extortion and gambling. It is unclear how much he will be able to pay. Prosecutors only found $822,000 in cash stashed in the walls of his apartment when he was caught.