Drug dealer's account elicits laughs from Bulger at trial

Story highlights

  • A former FBI agent testifies about James "Whitey" Bulger's role in a 1982 homicide
  • The agent apologizes to the victim's family for his role in tipping off Bulger
  • Bulger and a former drug dealing associate exchange smiles and laughter
  • Associate recalls how Bulger saved his brother from kidnappers
A federal jury Monday saw a rare display of emotion from reputed mob kingpin James "Whitey" Bulger when he laughed while reveling in his former drug dealer's nostalgia as the dealer testified in his federal murder trial.
Jurors also saw the family of a man shot to death, allegedly by Bulger, react to disgraced former FBI supervisor's tearful public apology for his role in two 1982 deaths.
Former FBI agent John Morris apologized in court to the family of Michael Donahue, whom Bulger is charged with killing, for leaking sensitive information that eventually made its way to the reputed South Boston crime boss, and according to testimony, cost Donahue his life.
"I don't ask for your forgiveness, but I do want to express my sincere apology for things I may have done and things I didn't do," Morris said to the Donahue family. Michael Donahue's three sons and widow, Patricia, sat front row in the reserved section in the Boston courtroom.
Bulger is charged with killing 19 people during what prosecutors allege was a nearly 20-year reign of terror in South Boston. Morris admitted telling his "best friend," Bulger's disgraced, now-jailed FBI informant handler John Connolly, the identity of another informant who had agreed to cooperate with the government against Bulger regarding the 1981 slaying of a wealthy Oklahoma businessman.
According to previous testimony from Bulger's former associate and partner John Martorano, Bulger rained bullets on Donahue's car in pursuit of drug dealer Brian Halloran to prevent Halloran from implicating Bulger and his crew in the killing. Donahue, who was not affiliated with the gang, was giving Halloran a ride home from a bar that night. He was shot to death in May 1982.
"Not a day in my life has gone by I haven't thought about this. Not a day in my life that I don't pray that God give you a blessing and comfort for the pain that you suffered," Morris continued while looking directly at Donahue's widow.
"I am truly sorry; I do not ask for forgiveness. That's too much," Morris concluded in a trembling voice as tears began to well up in his eyes.
Tommy Donahue, one of Donahue's sons, and his mother returned Morris' gaze.
Outside of court, Tommy Donahue said Morris can "take his apology and shove it. His tears and his apologies don't mean crap to me and my family, not one bit."
During the court break, Tommy Donahue exchanged kind words with the man defending his father's accused murderer, defense attorney Hank Brennan. Brennan elicited the apology from Morris when he pointed to the Donahue family in court and asked Morris if he has ever apologized to the "families left behind" due to his "inappropriate actions."
Donahue described his family's "lousy predicament."
"We want Bulger to go to jail, but we have to rely on Whitey Bulger's lawyers to give us the truth. The government isn't going to give it to us," he said. "It's a double-edged sword."
Patricia Donahue, who spoke for the first time since the trial began, said about Morris' apology Monday: "No, those words didn't mean anything to me. I think he probably really feels guilty; to me that's a good punishment because that is something he has to live with for the rest of his life,"
When court returned after a brief recess, Bulger began cracking up, his shoulders moving aggressively up and down, when his former drug dealing associate Joseph Tower started telling a story about the time Bulger, or "Boots," saved Tower's brother's life.
Tower is testifying under an immunity agreement and was called to the stand to explain Bulger's extortion business, or "rent." Bulger is also charged with extortion, racketeering and money laundering.
Tower, former cocaine dealer, said he entered into a business agreement with Bulger, reluctantly admitting that Bulger got a piece of the earnings, in exchange for "protection."
"I said, now you are in serious trouble," Tower testified he told the gangsters who kidnapped his brother, alluding to his affiliation with Bulger and how the kidnappers had made a dangerous mistake. Bulger got the kidnappers to release Tower's brother after a money exchange gone wrong, Tower said.
When the judge called a sidebar, the two old friends exchanged shoulder shrugs, head nods and brief smiles. Tower will return to the stand for cross-examination Tuesday.