Key Witness Takes Stand In Whitey Bulger Trial

Audie Cornish speaks with WBUR senior reporter David Boeri for an update on Boston gangster James "Whitey" Bulger's ongoing trial. On Monday, the court heard testimony from Kevin Weeks, a key witness in the trial. Weeks was a bouncer and friend to Bulger and also admitted to helping out in five murders.

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The trial of notorious Boston mobster and FBI informant James "Whitey" Bulger is pushing into its fourth week with a parade of gangland witnesses. But few knew the workings of James Bulger's organization like today's star witness, Kevin Weeks. Weeks was Bulger's right-hand man, enforcer and chosen successor to lead the Winter Hill Gang.

After Bulger went on the run in 1995, Weeks continued to take orders from his fugitive boss for some time. Weeks was arrested in 1999. Facing the possibility of life in prison, he agreed to become a government witness, and today took the stand against Bulger.

WBUR's David Boeri is at the courthouse in Boston. And, David, to start, you've interviewed Kevin Weeks. Talk a little bit more about what his role was in the gang.

DAVID BOERI, BYLINE: Audie, from the time he graduated from high school back in 1974, Kevin Weeks became the chief enforcer for Whitey Bulger. He became his right-hand man. He was with him so much that he really became known as Bulger's surrogate son. And including when Bulger took off in 1995, it was Weeks that was left holding the bag of the organization when mafioso showed up looking for unpaid debts. He had a shotgun seat literally and figuratively to all the violence with which Bulger's charged.

CORNISH: Well, what have we learned from his testimony about the way Bulger's operation worked?

BOERI: It worked by fear, fear and terror. He described today on the stand how Bulger would summon people to the third floor of a local bucket of blood called Triple O's, in a dark office in which, in one case, he thrust a machine gun in somebody's chest and said, you're either going to pay up or you're going to die.

Another person being extorted, real estate person being extorted, he put a gun to the top of his head and explained that if he shot that way, there wouldn't be a whole lot of blood, and he would do it if that person didn't come up with $50,000.

And then, of course, there are five murders that Weeks was accessory to. He saw Bulger, he says, and he's testified before, blow the brains out of people. He saw him strangle a woman with his hands. He saw him machine-gun people, two victims. He talked about that today. So that Kevin Weeks is in a position of - he knows the secrets better than anyone, about what both Whitey Bulger and Bulger's partner, Stephen Flemmi, did, he says.

CORNISH: And Weeks may be known to the public because he helped lead investigators to the unmarked graves of three alleged victims of Bulger. How important is he to the prosecution's case?

BOERI: He's huge because he can link Bulger to five murders directly in which he was actually digging the holes, putting people in the holes, digging them out of holes and reburying them elsewhere. He saw violence. He saw extorting drug dealers - at one point, Bulger with about 50 pounds of cocaine in his presence. He can put him on the spot of some of the most violent episodes that these jurors will ever hear.

CORNISH: So, David, given the relationship between these two characters, what was the mood in the courtroom?

BOERI: So here comes Weeks in this morning with this tremendous sense of betrayal because he found out after all those years that Bulger was actually a secret FBI informant.

He had been the most fiercely loyal of Bulger's supporters. He came in today in awe of this person who was really in many ways his father. He said, everything I was my whole life was Bulger. He walked in and Bulger pretended that he didn't see him, that he wasn't in the room.

Weeks had said to me - once he said - in fact, the last line of his book he wrote, I hope they never find him. And I asked him why, and he just spoke to me like I was an idiot, Audie. He said, do you think I want to go through with this? But go through with it, he did and he will, and he'll be there for several days.

CORNISH: David Boeri from member station WBUR. He spoke to us from the federal courthouse in Boston. David, thank you.

BOERI: You're welcome.

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