Family of Whitey Bulger sues US government for $200M in wrongful death suit over fatal beating

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James “Whitey” Bulger
U.S. MARSHALS SERVICE VIA AP

BOSTON (CBS/AP) — The family of James “Whitey” Bulger has filed a wrongful death claim against the federal government following his death in prison last year.

The notorious Boston crime boss was beaten to death within 12 hours of his arrival at USP Hazelton, a high security West Virginia federal prison in October 2018.

The family is seeking $200 million in damages, The Wall Street Journal reports. Bulger’s family argues that he was “deliberately placed in harm’s way” when he was transferred to USP Hazelton and placed in the general inmate population hours before his death.

The 89-year-old died from blunt force injuries to the head. No charges have been filed since, but officials have said two Massachusetts mobsters are suspects. The Federal Bureau of Prisons didn’t respond to an email from The Associated Press seeking comment on Friday and Bulger’s lawyer also didn’t respond.

In a statement provided to CBS News, Hank Brennan and David Schoen, the counsel for Mr. Bulger’s estate, said: “This action is the only meaningful avenue to learn the truth and hold accountable each and every government employee who is responsible for the murder of an 89-year-old wheelchair-bound man in the Bureau of Prisons’ custody.”

Bulger is a notorious figure in the annals of American crime. Nicknamed “Whitey” for his bright platinum hair, Bulger grew up in a gritty South Boston housing project and became known as one of the most ruthless gangsters in Boston. His younger brother, William Bulger, became one of the most powerful politicians in Massachusetts, leading the state Senate for 17 years.

Bulger rose to become one of the most prominent crime bosses in late 20th century Boston, but he harbored a shocking secret: a 25-year relationship with FBI agents. Bulger was recruited by rogue agents as an informant on organized crime matters relating to the Italian-American mob.

In return, Bulger was given apparent free rein to get away with robbery, drug dealing, extortion and the alleged murders of 19 people. In 1995, after being tipped off that federal agents were set to indict him, Bulger went on the run with his girlfriend, Catherine Greig, hiding out all over the country for 16 years.

Greig was faithful to the man convicted in the murders of 11 people while running a Boston crime ring from the 1970s through the 1990s. The pair was finally arrested in Santa Monica, California in 2011. At he time, Bulger was the most wanted man in American. He was sentenced to two consecutive life terms for his role in 11 killings.

Greig is serving a multi-year sentence for harboring a fugitive. Earlier this year, she was moved to a halfway house in Massachusetts to serve out the rest of her federal prison sentence for helping the notorious crime boss.

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