Three charged in Whitey Bulger murder, federal prosecutors say

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Three men have been charged with the murder of James “Whitey” Bulger, the notorious Boston mobster who was beaten to death in 2018 while serving a life sentence in a West Virginia prison, federal prosecutors said Thursday. .

Fotios Geas, 55, Paul J. DeCologero, 48, and Sean McKinnon, 36, have each been charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, along with several other crimes. The charges come nearly four years after Bulger was found unresponsive and badly clubbed at Hazelton US Penitentiary in Bruceton Mills, W.Va. He was 89 years old.

Bulger’s bloody reign as Boston’s most brutal mobster endured three tumultuous decades. He was an FBI informant, recruited to expose his mob rivals, and he later landed on the bureau’s most wanted list after fleeing ahead of an impending grand jury indictment. During his time as a fugitive, Bulger sparked a congressional investigation and inspired Hollywood villains. He spent more than 16 years on the run before being arrested in California.

Bulger received consecutive life sentences for his role in 11 murders and 31 racketeering counts, and he was first incarcerated in Florida. He was transferred to Hazelton in October 2018 and was killed less than 24 hours after arriving, raise questions why he was moved and whether enough was done to ensure his safety after being placed in the general population of one of the most violent prisons in the country.

Geas and DeCologero are charged with repeatedly punching Bulger in the head — the blows that caused his death — and they face additional charges of accessory to first-degree murder and assault causing grievous bodily harm. Geas was charged separately with murder by a federal inmate serving a life sentence, and McKinnon was charged with making false statements to a federal agent.

Geas and DeCologero both remain in federal prison, while McKinnon was on probation when he was charged, prosecutors said. He was arrested Thursday in Florida.

Bulger was using a wheelchair at the time of his death, and prison surveillance footage captured two men leading him out of sight, authorities said at the time. Off camera, he was reportedly beaten with a padlock stuffed into a sock. In the media after the murder, law enforcement officials described a brutal assault: Bulger was “unrecognizable,” we said; his eyes were almost gouged out, according to others.

It was one of many violent prisoner deaths at the facility that year, and the high-profile homicide caught Hazelton’s attention. complaint history about insufficient staff and lack of control. As a longtime FBI collaborator, Bulger had a target on his back and his family believed he was “deliberately endangered”.

They deposit a wrongful death lawsuit against the Justice Department in 2020, claiming Bulger was “perhaps the most infamous and well-known inmate” since Al Capone and accusing officials of failing to protect him enough. A federal judge fired the suit earlier this year.

A lawyer for Geas did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday’s charges, and it was not immediately clear whether DeCologero and McKinnon had legal representation.

According to court records saw again by the Washington Post in 2018, Geas, who went by the name Freddy, was serving a life sentence after two murder convictions and was a Massachusetts-based associate of the New York Genovese crime family. After Geas was named a suspect in the death of Bulger, a private investigator who worked with him told the Boston Globe: “Freddy hated rats.”

Paul Duggan, Peter Hermann and Amy Brittain contributed to this report.

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