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


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