For years, Whitey Bulger was an FBI informant who helped to bring down the Italian Mafia in new England. He has now been linked to 19 murders that occurred while he served in that role and as a mob boss.
In January 1995 he fled Boston after his FBI handler, John Connolly Jr., tipped him off about an imminent federal indictment. Connolly is now serving a 10-year federal sentence for racketeering and obstruction of justice.
William Bulger had initially been called to testify before the House panel in December, but he invoked his Fifth Amendment rights and refused to answer any questions at that time. His testimony last week came after the committee granted the immunity from prosecution.
Two major public figures in Massachusetts, Governor Mitt Romney and Attorney General Thomas Reilly, have recently called on Bulger to step down from his post at the University of Massachusetts, citing his refusal to testify in December and lingering questions about his relationship with his older brother.
William Bulger, who is 69, has since said that he has no intention of resigning, and the governor was recently unsuccessful in a bid to convince the Massachusetts legislature to eliminate the UMass president?s job.
?I know my brother stands accused of many things . . . serious crimes, brutal crimes,? he told the panel in a prepared statement. ?I am mindful of the victims in this matter, and I do not have the words that are adequate to let them know of my anguish.?
Describing his brother Whitey, he said: ?He marched to his own drummer and traveled a path very different from mine. Jim had his own ways I could not possibly influence. The realities of the situation were in fact shrouded in secrecy.?
Bulger was roundly criticized by some panel members and observers for what they described as his ?selective memory? and evasive answers, while others say that he is being unfairly targeted for criticism and grilling because his brother is a former crime boss and accused mass murderer.
The UMass board of trustees has so far shown little inclination to seek Bulger?s removal from his position, but the increasing public pressure from Romney and Reilly, coupled with Bulger?s controversial appearance before the House panel, may sway some votes against him when they meet again to discuss his fate.