After 17 years on the run and 5 years behind bars, Bulger was bludgeoned to death less than 12 hours after being transferred to a West Virginia penitentiary.
Family members of the late Irish-American mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger have filed a lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Prisons, claiming corrections officials should have known Bulger needed additional protection behind bars.
The New York Daily News recalls how Bulger, 89, was transferred from a “soft” Arizona prison to the U.S. Penitentiary in Hazleton, West Virginia, in October 2018.
Hazleton, says the Daily News, is notoriously dangerous. Bulger was there for only 12 hours before he was brutally attacked and beaten to death by one or more other inmates.
Now, Bulger’s surviving relatives have said the Bureau of Prisons should have known better than to let Bulger mix, unsupervised, with the prison’s general population. Their lawsuit, filed Friday in a West Virginia federal court, described Bulger as “perhaps the most infamous and well-known inmate” to be sent to a U.S. penitentiary since Prohibition.
Due to his notoriety, Bulger was “subjected to a risk of certain death or serious bodily injury by the intentional or deliberately indifferent actions” of prison officials.
The lawsuit further alleges that the actions and practices of Hazleton staff “are shocking to the conscience of civilized persons and intolerable in a society governed by laws and considerations of due process.”
The Boston Globe notes that the lawsuit was filed by William Bulger, Jr., who is Bulger’s nephew and also the administrator of his estate. It names as defendants the U.S. Bureau of Prisons as well as 30 unnamed Hazleton employees.
The lawsuit seeks $200 million in damages.
So far, says the Globe, nobody has been charged in Bulger’s death. However, investigators—as well as several of Bulger’s relatives—believe he was likely killed by individuals with ties to the Mafia.
Before his death, the 89-year old had spent years as one of the most wanted criminals in the United States.
Once the leader of an Irish-American organized crime syndicate in Boston, Bulger secretly worked as an informant for the FBI, passing along information about rival gangs to solidify his own position. He played a particularly critical role in taking down aspects of the New England-based Patriarca Mafia family.
Bulger disappeared from Boston in 1994, after his FBI handler tipped him off about impending criminal charges. He did not resurface until 2011, when investigators finally tracked him to an apartment in Santa Monica, California.
Handed a life sentence in 2013, Bulger was stabbed at an Arizona prison the following year. The lawsuit claims that another inmate had entered Bulger’s cell while the long-time mob boss was asleep, then “stabbed him in the head while he lay there,” motivated “by the fact that his deed would be celebrated by certain inmates and guards and we would achieve status or ‘street cred’ for attacking such an infamous criminal figure.”
Having already been exposed to violence, Bulger’s surviving relatives say it is not surprise he was again target—with deadly results—upon his transfer to Hazleton.
“Predictably, within hours of his placement in general population at Hazleton, inmates believed to be from New England and who are alleged to have Mafia ties or loyalties, killed James Bulger Jr. utilizing methods that include the use of a lock in a sock-type weapon,” the suit states.