Former Massachusetts State Police Colonel Thomas J. Foley, author of Most Wanted discussed the 16-year odyssey of chasing one of America’s most wanted and notorious criminal mastermind, James “Whitey” Bulger at the BPL on Thursday evening. Former Boston Globe reporter and current Boston University professor Dick Lehr, author of Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob moderated a Q+A forum with the audience.
Foley was sleeping on the morning of June 23, 2011 when phone call from the Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police, who told him that . “I never expected that call,” Foley said.
Foley joined the State Police organized crime unit in 1984. “I grew up throughout this story as a young, naive Trooper working on organized crime,” Foley said.
He retired in 2004. “It wasn’t until after I left the job that I felt that nothing had changed in this case, we had uncovered all the corruption in the criminal justice system and there was no significant change in informant policy that the truth was still being held back. The informant program has a systemic issue which protects bad guys.”
“Was (Former Massachusetts Senate President) Bill Bulger working to protect his brother?” Dick Lehr asked. “To a degree, yes,” Foley said. “People knew who both of the brothers were then.”
The bodies were found due to John Motorano, the prolific hit man lead to the solving of 50 murders in the Boston area. “It was a hard pill to swallow, working with him,” Foley said. “Once he started talking, Kevin Weeks came forward with information because he had participated in the burials.”
On the last day of their dig, they found the body of Debbie Davis in the Neponset River bed, which was the pinnacle of their investigation. “Davis was a girlfriend of Steven Flemmi, a Farah Fawcett looking woman whom Bulger strangled. It was ironic that UMass is right across the bay, which Billy Bulger was the president of.”
“There was always that Robin Hood image Whitey put out,” Foley said. “Once you read about the people he murdered, there’s no romantic image of him.”
In 1995, FBI Agent and friend John Connolly tipped Bulger off and he disappeared. Bulger and Katherine Greig moved to Santa Monica in 1996 under false identities.
“Did the FBI know where he was?” an audience member asked.
“To be fair, I have no evidence that they were helping him. There were agents who didn’t want him to get caught, but there were plenty who wanted him too,” Foley said.
“Were either of you worried about your safety during your reporting and investigating?” an audience member asked. “Well Tom was armed,” Lehr said. “I would worry about it a little bit but it was part of the job. You’re ineffective if you’re overly worried,” Foley said.
Foley said that Bulger would not get a deal in court. Flemmi is doing life.
“This is a history of Boston and it is a thing which was not right,” Foley said. “The families have been through Hell. They want their day in court.”
Bulger's trial is set for November 4, 2013.