Alleged victims' families attend Bulger hearing
BOSTON -- The families of victims allegedly killed at the hands of James "Whitey" Bulger had their first look at the longtime fugitive gangster Friday, and one family said seeing the man was a strange but satisfying experience.
"It was actually a horrible feeling," Tommy Donahue said about finally seeing the man who allegedly killed his father in 1982. "It was a sick feeling in my stomach."
Donahue and his mother, Patricia Donahue, sat in a packed federal courtroom as Bulger made his first appearance after 16 years on the run.
"It's never an easy thing for any of us," Tommy Donahue said at a press conference in front of the heavily guarded federal courthouse, where Bulger had just faced charges he committed 19 murders, including the murder of Donahue's father, Michael.
Michael Donahue was not targeted by the crime boss, but happened to be giving a ride to Bulger's target when Bulger shot both men on a Dorchester street.
"Hopefully, justice will prevail because there has been no justice for my family whatsoever," he said.
Patricia Donahue said Bulger appeared "meek" and "frail" during his brief court appearance. She was at a loss for words in describing what she expected him to look like, but said she had imagined him stronger.
"I wasn't impressed by him at all," Donahue told a pair of reporters outside the courtroom. "I thought he'd be a man in shape. He did not look like that to me."
The 81-year-old Bulger, wearing jeans and a white shirt, was tan and looked fit. He walked with a slight hunch at back-to-back hearings on two indictments.
Tommy Donahue said Bulger's age does not change the crimes he is accused of committing.
"Don't be fooled by this old man," he said.
Patricia Donahue said Bulger, who smiled and joked during a court appearance in Los Angeles on Thursday, seemed cocky during his appearance in Boston.
"It seemed to me he was more concerned about his money and assets," she said in an interview.
The government seized $800,000 in cash and more than 30 firearms found in Bulger's Santa Monica apartment when he was arrested Wednesday in California.
Bulger and his longtime companion, Catherine Greig, 60, have asked for court-appointed attorneys. Greig could face five years in prison if convicted of harboring a fugitive.
The Donahues said they were satisfied that Bulger has been brought to court, but blamed federal authorities for the delay.
"I think this could have happened 16 years ago, and I believe they (the Federal Bureau of Investigation) knew where he was and nobody did anything about it," Patricia Donahue said.
Bulger was a longtime informant for the agency. He fled the state in 1995 when a retired agent tipped him off to an impending arrest.
"If the FBI did their job a long time ago we wouldn't be here. My father would be alive. The Wheeler family -- their father would be alive -- and countless, countless other families would have their loved ones with them," Tommy Donahue said as a misting rain fell.
Roger Wheeler was an Oklahoma businessman allegedly killed by Bulger at a country club in Massachusetts in 1981. Donahue said he had been in contact with Wheeler's family, but did not elaborate.
The mother and son said they plan to attend as much of the court proceedings as possible in honor of their husband and father, but disagreed on the desired outcome of Bulger's trial.
"I hope he gets the chair," Tommy Donahue said. But his mother said that was "the easy way out."
"He should rot in jail and be miserable just like we've been for the last 30 years," Patricia Donahue said.
Patricia Donahue said she felt sick when she heard Bulger had been living in a rent-controlled apartment three blocks from the beach.
"We've been living all these years, hurting like all the other families, while he was living a great lifestyle," she said.
Tommy Donahue still lives in Dorchester, along with his two siblings. Patricia Donahue, who now lives in St. Croix, has been staying with her son while they see through a civil case they have filed against Bulger.
An attorney for the family of Quincy fisherman John McIntyre said his relatives never thought they'd see Bulger in court. The 32-year-old McIntyre was killed in 1984 after being tortured for hours.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)