Whitey Bulger’s family loses attempt to sue over prison transfer that saw him beaten to death

Boston crime boss went on run for 16 years before being arrested in California at age of 81

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Friday 21 January 2022 19:01 GMT
(Getty Images)

Whitey Bulger’s family has lost its attempt to sue the US government over the prison transfer that saw the notorious organised crime boss beaten to death.

The 89-year-old Boston crime boss, whose real name was Jame Bulger, was beaten to death in a federal prison in West Virginia in 2018, on the same day he was transferred there.

His family had sued the Bureau of Prison’s and 30 unnamed members of the prison system for failing to protect Bulger by moving him to the prison at Hazelton, which they say was known for inmate violence.

But US District JudgeJohn Preston Bailey in Wheeling granted the government’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, ruling that federal law does not allow the family to sue over the decision to move Bulger.

The family claimed that the government knew that Bulger, who was also an FBI informant, had been labelled a “snitch” and was at risk but did not do enough to protect him.

“Through its frequent legislation in the areas of prison housing and prisoner litigation, Congress had many opportunities to create a damages remedy for situations where a housing decision leads to injury. But it did not do so,” Judge Bailey wrote.

“Instead, it has repeatedly limited judicial authority to review BOP housing decisions and to entertain claims brought by prisoners.”

Bulger was the head of the Boston-based Irish-American crime organisation, the Winter Hill Gang, and informed on the New England mafia.

He fled Boston in 1994, and after 16 years on the run was arrested at the age of 81 in Santa Monica, California.

In 2013 he was convicted of participating in 11 murders and a string of other crimes, and served his sentence in Florida and Arizona before being transferred to West Virginia.

“Predictably, within hours of his placement in general population at Hazelton, inmates believed to be from New England and who are alleged to have Mafia ties or loyalties, killed James Bulger Jr utilising methods that included the use of a lock in a sock-type weapon,” the lawsuit, filed in 2020, stated.

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