Whitey wants a blackout

No matter where you stand on the issue, you have to admit it is a brilliant and calculating ploy by James “Whitey” Bulger, who’s been known to dabble in payback, to exact some revenge on those in the media he deems his enemies and who have been the foremost in exposing his tale to the public at large. You have to wonder why it isn’t done more often. Depending upon what US District Court Judge Denise Casper rules, it just may be.

After successfully having Judge Richard Stearns removed because the defense claimed that, as a former federal prosecutor, he could be biased towards Bulger and might be called as a witness, the accused killer’s lawyers set their sights on members of the media. The lawyers say they just may have cause, though they’re not sure until other witnesses testify, to call former Boston Globe Spotlight team members Gerard O’Neill and Dick Lehr, current Globe reporter Shelley Murphy, columnist Kevin Cullen, and Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr to impeach testimony of other potential government witnesses. They are among nearly 80 defense witnesses listed, including federal agents who would also be subject to any sequester order as witnesses.

As such, the attorneys argue, the targeted scribes not only cannot be present in the courtroom to ensure the purity of their testimony, but they must be ordered to stay away from any media accounts of the trial. It has nothing to do with the fact all five have written hundreds of stories and authored or co-authored books about Bulger’s murderous rise in Boston’s criminal landscape and his 16 years on the run.

“They are listed as witnesses, they are expected to be called as witnesses, and that’s the reason that the order of sequestration should apply to them,” Bulger’s lead attorney J.W. Carney Jr., said. Right, and Bulger kept the drugs out of Southie.

Murphy, for one, doesn’t buy it. “He wants to pretend like we don’t have any expertise that the public has a right to hear,” Murphy told WGBH’s Adam Reilly. “He’s called me words that I can’t say on camera, in letters that he wrote to a friend, which we obtained, and he’s called Kevin Cullen a low-life. So if he hates us that much, and thinks we’re such awful people, how does he think we’re going to help him?”

Assistant US Attorney Brian Kelly says the government has proof Bulger’s goal is to prevent those who know the White Man’s story the best from using that expertise to add context to the courtroom reports for readers. “He [Bulger] is trying to use this as a tool to kick out people the defendant doesn’t like,” Kelly argued.

Kelly says jailhouse recordings from Plymouth County Correctional Facility, where Bulger is a guest as he awaits trial, reveal Bulger’s animosity toward the journalists. Kelly told Casper that Bulger “hates certain members of the press, including Cullen, Murphy, and Howie Carr,” Kelly said, before adding, “especially Howie Carr.” (Interestingly, the first posting of the story on bostonglobe.com yesterday included that quote but it has since been removed and cannot be found anywhere. Apparently, it’s bad form to credit a competitor with being more despised by Bulger than your own people.)

Howie, of course, is having a field day with his place on the witness list. He says he’s confident he’ll have a seat in the courtroom as a member of the media, though he says he tried to finagle a place in the victims’ section since he was allegedly targeted for a hit by Bulger.

The Globe has filed a motion to either remove its reporters from the list or at least allow them to cover the trial given their institutional knowledge of the case. Casper will issue a ruling sometime before opening arguments next week, but in the meantime, Murphy, Cullen, and Carr are continuing to do their jobs.

                                                                                                                                                                                    –JACK SULLIVAN

BEACON HILL

The former chief operating officer of MassHealth pays a $25,000 ethics fine for steering state work to a big consulting firm while angling to get a $185,000 job from that same firm, CommonWealth reports.

Gov. Deval Patrick gives an impromptu oral history of the Marathon bombing manhunt while visiting a Cambridge tech firm, confiding that after the hunt was over, he retired to the Berkshires and got “quite drunk, by myself.”

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Lowell Sun, in an editorial, applauds Dracut for attracting 2,000 people to its Town Meeting and wading through 40 articles, including two overrides, in four hours.

Somerville’s proposed budget would increase school spending and municipal salaries.

MARATHON BOMBINGS

A Massachusetts man and teenager are suing the New York Post, charging the paper with falsely accusing them of being suspects in the Marathon bombings when it put a photograph of them on its front-page under headline “Bag men.”

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Samantha Power, the outspoken human rights advocate with strong Boston ties, is nominated by President Obama to be the US ambassador to the United Nations.

The National Security Agency appears to be collecting the phone records of millions of Verizon customers under a secret court order issued in April, the Washington Post reports. The Guardian has a copy of the order.

New data suggest the IRS didn’t just single out Tea Party groups for special scrutiny; a report by the Treasury’s inspector general found just one-third of nonprofits the agency scrubbed for political activity leaned right.

ELECTIONS

US Senate candidates Ed Markey and Gabriel Gomez clash sharply at their first debate on abortion, Syria, and other issues, the Telegram & Gazette reports. WBUR reports the debate injected energy into the race, but may not have changed the dynamic. NECN has video.The two candidates also respond to Eagle-Tribune questions on taxing Internet purchases, immigration, and the EPA. Joe Battenfeld argues that Gomez easily bested Markey, but had no chance against the Sox and Bruins.

The large field of Boston mayoral hopefuls go at it in morning and evening forums yesterday on development issues and education. But is the the field too big for voters to hear anything of substance? The Herald singles out John Connolly and Michael Ross for breaking Mayor Tom Menino’s “be nice” order, although virtually no one at the morning forum showered high praise on Hizzoner.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

With several tall towers on tap, Boston is “finally embracing the age of the skyscraper,” reports the Globe’s Casey Ross.

EDUCATION

Lawmakers should maximize the state’s investment in young children, Alyssa Haywoode writes in CommonWealth.

A state audit determines a new middle school in New Bedford cost twice as much as initially estimated, with the state picking up roughly 85 percent of the $85 million bill, mostly because it was built on PCB-contaminated land that had to be cleaned up.

HEALTH CARE

Signature Healthcare Brockton Hospital has signed an affiliation agreement with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, severing its ties with Tufts Medical Center and increasing Beth Israel’s growing footprint south of Boston.

TRANSPORTATION

T ridership falls after the fare increase, but not as much as expected, State House News reports (via CommonWealth).

The TSA now says it won’t relax the ban on airline passengers bringing aboard knives, NPR reports (via WBUR).

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Duxbury officials are promising an “equitable solution” to their decision to close Duxbury Beach to protect piping plover nests after protests from scores of non-residents who paid $295 for a sticker that they now can’t use.

Boston was tied for third place in a national ranking of city park systems by the nonprofit Trust for Public Land, USA Today reports.

Stoughton selectmen have signed an agreement with the state to close the town landfill and build a solar array on top after it’s capped.

Fall River has launched an ambitious tree-planting program that will grow saplings on an abandoned city lot then replant them in neighborhoods around the city for aesthetic and environmental benefits.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A New Hampshire woman is charged with assault and battery on Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua outside a campaign event at a liquor store, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

North Carolina repeals a state law that allowed inmates on death row to allege racial bias in capital cases.