After 17 years on the run and 5 years behind bars, Bulger was beaten to death less than 12 hours after he was transferred to a West Virginia prison.
Family members of the late Irish-American mob leader James “Whitey” Bulger have filed a lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Prisons, alleging correction officers should have known Bulger needed additional protection behind bars.
The New York Daily News recalled how the 89-year-old Bulger was transferred from a “soft” prison in Arizona to the US prison in Hazleton, West Virginia, in October 2018.
Hazleton, the Daily News says, is notoriously dangerous. Bulger was only there for 12 hours before he was brutally attacked and beaten to death by one or more other inmates.
Now, Bulger’s surviving relatives have said the Bureau of Prisons should have known better than to let Bulger mix unsupervised with the general population of the prison. In her lawsuit, filed Friday in federal court in West Virginia, Bulger was described as “perhaps the most notorious and well-known inmate” taken to a US prison since Prohibition.
Because of his notoriety, Bulger was at risk of certain death or serious bodily harm “through the willful or intentional indifference” of prison officials.
A mug shot from 1959 with Boston crime lord and informant James “Whitey” Bulger. Image via federal prison office. Public domain.
The lawsuit also alleges that the actions and practices of Hazleton employees “shock the conscience of civilized persons and are intolerable in a society governed by law and due process considerations.”
The Boston Globe notes that the lawsuit was brought by William Bulger Jr., Bulger’s nephew and also the administrator of his estate. It names the US Bureau of Prisons and 30 unnamed Hazleton employees as defendants.
The lawsuit seeks damages of $ 200 million.
So far, Globus says, no one has been charged with Bulger’s death. However, investigators – as do several of Bulger’s relatives – believe that he was likely killed by people with ties to the Mafia.
Before his death, the 89-year-old had spent years as one of the most wanted criminals in the United States.
Bulger was once the head of an Irish-American organized crime syndicate in Boston and secretly worked as an informant for the FBI. He passed on information about rival gangs in order to consolidate his own position. He played a particularly important role in eliminating aspects of the New England-based Patriarca Mafia family.
Bulger disappeared from Boston in 1994 after his FBI agent pointed out impending criminal charges. He didn’t reappear until 2011 when investigators finally tracked him to an apartment in Santa Monica, California.
Bulger was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2013 and stabbed to death in an Arizona prison the following year. The lawsuit alleges that another inmate went into Bulger’s cell while the longtime mob boss was sleeping and then “stabbed him in the head while he was there,” motivated by the fact that his act was monitored by certain inmates and guards would be celebrated and we would achieve status or street cred if we attacked such a notorious criminal figure. “
Bulger’s surviving relatives, who have already been subjected to violence, say it is not surprising that he was again targeted with fatal consequences when he was transferred to Hazleton.
“Predictably, inmates believed to be from New England with alleged Mafia affiliations or loyalties would have killed James Bulger Jr. within hours of his placement in the general Hazleton population using methods that included the use of a Lock in a sock. Type of weapon, ”it says in the lawsuit.
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