BOSTON — Former Boston crime boss James "Whitey" Bulger was sentenced Thursday to life in prison for his murderous reign in the 1970s and '80s, bringing to a close a case that exposed FBI corruption so deep that many people across the city thought he would never be brought to justice.
Bulger, 84, said nothing in his own defense and was stone-faced as he learned his fate.
A jury convicted Bulger in August in a broad racketeering case. He was found guilty of 11 of the 19 killings he was accused of, along with dozens of other gangland crimes, including shakedowns and money laundering.
U.S. District Judge Denise Casper heard testimony Wednesday from a dozen relatives among the 19 slaying victims. They called him a terrorist, a punk and Satan. Prosecutors called him a sociopath.
On Thursday, Casper delivered a blistering speech before sentencing Bulger to two consecutive life sentences plus five years, as prosecutors had requested.
She called his crimes "almost unfathomable" and the human suffering he inflicted "agonizing to hear" and "painful to watch." She said at times during the trial that she wished she and everyone else in the courtroom were watching a movie, because the horror described seemed unreal.
She read off the names of Bulger's 11 victims. "Each of these lives came to an unceremonious end at your hands or at the hands of others at your direction," Casper said.
Bulger stood and folded his hands in front of him, expressionless, as the judge imposed his sentence. Relatives of the victims remained quiet.
His attorney Hank Brennan promised an appeal of the conviction, though he didn't say on what grounds. He railed against the plea bargains given to Bulger associates who testified against him.
"Why in the world do we have a handful of murderers walking the streets?" Brennan asked.
U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said prosecutors had to make difficult decisions to get Bulger.
"Was it worth it? I believe so, but it's not something you enjoy doing," Ortiz said. She added that Bulger "deserves nothing less than to spend the rest of his life in prison for the harm, the pain and the suffering that he has caused to many in this town."
Bulger, the inspiration for Jack Nicholson's sinister character in the 2006 movie "The Departed," was seen for years as a Robin Hood figure who bought Thanksgiving turkeys for working-class South Boston residents and kept hard drugs out of the neighborhood. But that image was shattered when authorities started digging up bodies more than a decade ago.
Prosecutors at his trial portrayed him as a cold-blooded, hands-on boss who killed anyone he saw as a threat, along with innocent people who happened to get in the way.
Corrupt Boston FBI agents took bribes from Bulger and protected him for years while he worked simultaneously as a crime boss and an FBI informant who ratted out the rival New England Mafia.
Bulger fled Boston in 1994 after being tipped off by his former FBI handler that he was about to be indicted, and he remained a fugitive for more than 16 years until he was captured in Santa Monica, Calif., in 2011.
Tommy Donahue, whose father, Michael, was killed by Bulger, said he had been waiting 31 years for someone to be convicted for it.
"That old [expletive] is finally going to prison. He's going to die in prison," he said.