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Friday, June 24, 2022

John Martorano: James Whitey Bulger's Hit Man

     James "Whitey" Bulger, the Boston area mobster and head of the Winter Hill Gang, went into hiding in 1995 after rogue FBI agent John Connolly tipped him off about an upcoming federal indictment. For years Mr. Bulger had avoided arrest by informing on other gangsters to the FBI. (John Connolly was convicted in 2008 of second-degree murder. In February 2022, due to poor. health, he was released from prison.)

     In June 2011 FBI agents arrested Whitey Bulger in Santa Monica, California where he had lived 16 years in an apartment complex with his longtime girlfriend, Catherine Greg. The fugitive and his companion had been living under the names Charlie and Carol Gasko. He was in his 80s.

     In 2013 Mr. Bulger was federally tried in Boston on 32 counts of murder, homicides he either committed himself or ordered. ( He was convicted and sentenced to life.) John V. Martorano, a professional hit man employed by the accused murder-for-hire mastermind, was one of the prosecution's most important witnesses. In 2007 Martorano cut a deal with the government to testify against the infamous Boston mobster. After confessing to twenty murders, Mr. Martorano was a free man. Three of the hit man's victims were innocent bystanders, including a man Martorano mistakenly shot because he was driving a car similar to the intended target's vehicle. (Even so-called "professional" hit men are notoriously incompetent.) After carrying out a contract murder Martorano would summon mob underlings to dispose of the body. Most of his victims were buried.

     On June 18, 2013, Bulger's attorney, Henry Brennan, during his cross-examination of the 72-year-old witness, asked Martorano if he considered himself a serial killer. "No," the witness replied. "Serial killers kill until they get caught or stop. I confessed my murders.  Serial killers kill for fun. They like it. I never liked it. I never had any joy." 

     "No satisfaction?" the defense attorney asked.

     "None." Later in his testimony Martorano insisted that he was a "nice guy." Moreover, he never thought of himself as a hit man or professional killer. "I didn't enjoy killing anybody," he said. "I enjoyed helping a friend if I could."

     "Does that make you a vigilante--like Batman?" Attorney Brennan asked in a sarcastic tone of voice. Later in the cross examination the defense lawyer asked the prosecution witness to describe how he felt about murdering three innocent bystanders.

     "I did feel bad. I still feel bad. It was the worst thing I did."

     Mr. Martorano's testimony provided a rare peek into the mind of a mobbed-up contract killer. Only a cold-blooded sociopath could, with a straight face, portray himself as a nice guy and a victim. 

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