06/13/2013 10:40 pm ET Updated Jun 14, 2013

Whitey Bulger Trial: Prosecutors Break Out Big Guns


BOSTON -- Jurors in James "Whitey" Bulger's racketeering trial Thursday got a glimpse of the heavy firepower that prosecutors say helped him dominate organized crime, and they heard tales of alleged FBI corruption that hindered attempts to break up his gang.

Retired Massachusetts State Police Col. Thomas Foley testified about dozens of weapons, including high-powered rifles and machine guns that he held in the witness stand, that prosecutors contend were part of the Winter Hill Gang's arsenal.

A small number of firearms and ammo were found in the home of Mary Flemmi, the mother of Bulger's criminal partner Stephen Flemmi, Foley testified. But Flemmi's son led investigators to bigger caches in 2000.

Under cross-examination, however, Foley said none of the weapons came from Bulger's home or tested positive for his DNA.

Foley spent most of the day on the witness stand and described attempts to take down the Winter Hill Gang. Bulger and his crew made millions by collecting "rent" or "tribute" from low-level crooks who wanted to deal drugs, pimp women or run gambling dens in their territory.

Anyone who refused to pay off Bulger's gang could suffer violent consequences, Foley said.

"It could range from being put of business to taking a beating," said Foley. "Or actually at times some people were killed."

Bulger, 83, has pleaded not guilty to 32 charges, including 19 murders. He arrived in court wearing a gray, long-sleeved shirt and jeans.

To build a case against the top of South Boston's criminal hierarchy, Foley said the state police tried to pick off bookmakers.

"The best way to attack the organization would be through the bookmakers, which was a huge source or revenue for organized crime, and we would work our way up," Foley testified.

Some of Foley's gang-busting efforts were thwarted by what he believed were leaks and interference from the FBI.

"They put a higher price on protecting their informants than on public safety," he said.

But in other ways, the police work bore fruit. Foley said that hit man John Martorano and Kevin Weeks, another Bulger associate, both began cooperating with authorities. Martorano's help enabled authorities to charge others with several murders, Foley said.

Martorano is expected to testify against Bulger, saying he killed at Bulger's behest. Foley said Martorano years ago withheld information when offering partial cooperation.

The defense got Foley to say that the Winter Hill Gang was a looser affiliation than in typical Mafia crime families. Foley said that at times, Martorano would independently commit a crime without seeking Bulger's approval -- something that would not be done in La Cosa Nostra.

That distinction may be important, because proving the racketeering charges against Bulger essentially requires proving a criminal conspiracy.

Earlier in the day, retired state police Detective Robert Long testified about 1980 police surveillance on Bulger, Flemmi and Mafia figures who conducted business at a North End garage. That spying mission was called "Operation Lobster."

Some of the images showed Arthur "Bucky" Barrett in Bulger's presence at the garage. Bulger, along with Flemmi, allegedly tortured and killed Barrett to steal his take from a bank robbery worth millions.

Two bookmakers are expected to testify as government witnesses on Friday.