By EDMUND H. MAHONY, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hartford Courant
9:30 PM EDT, June 17, 2013
Confessed 20-time killer John Martorano left no doubt during his testimony against James "Whitey" Bulger Monday that he was settling a score for the decision made decades ago by Bulger and another former partner, Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, to become FBI informants.
Minutes into his testimony, mostly descriptions of violent deaths, Martorano became the first witness at Bulger's federal racketeering trial to implicate the former boss of the Winter Hill Gang in a murder. But he did so after a surprising account of the shock he said he experienced upon learning that his closest associates had been informing on him and others to the FBI.
"They were my partners in crime," Martorano said of Bulger and Flemmi. "They were my best friends. They were my children's godfathers. After I heard that they were informants, it sort of broke my heart. They broke all trust that we had, all loyalties. I was just beside myself with it."
Martorano, 72, said he named the youngest of his five children after Bulger and Flemmi.
"James Stephen," Martorano told Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Wyshak. "After Jimmy Bulger and Stevie Flemmi."
Bulger, seated between his lawyers at the defense table, looked uninterested. He threw Martorano a casual glance when the beefy killer, who has been released from prison, walked into the courtroom through the spectators' door.
Martorano dwarfed Bulger, who was slumped in his seat. Martorano wore an expensive black suit, a powder blue shirt with matching pocket square. He gave clipped answers and spoke in a deep voice. He alternated pairs of glasses; one for looking at Bulger and a second for reading government reports documenting the carnage he has taken responsibility for.
He said he followed his father into the family business, which was crime. He said his family owned Luigi's, a restaurant on Washington Street that was an after hours hangout for gangsters.
"The bars closed at 1 a.m.," Martorano said. "We opened at 1 a.m."
By the end of the 1960s, he said he had killed eight people, three of them essentially bystanders who had the bad luck to have been nearby when Martorano was settling disagreements or looking for revenge.
He said his decades-long relationship with Bulger began in 1972. Martorano had a reputation then in the underworld and was affiliated with the original Winter Hill Gang. Bulger is accused of taking it over, but in 1972 the gang was headquartered in a Somerville garage and consisted of five partners, including Flemmi.
Bulger wanted help in brokering a truce between rival gangs of Irish thugs in South Boston, where he lived and was building his criminal organization, Martorano said. Martorano said he knew people who could help. Bulger became the crime boss of South Boston and merged his organization with Winter Hill.
A year later, Martorano said, Bulger participated in attempts by Winter Hill to kill Alfred "Indian Al" Notarangeli.
Notarangeli was believed to have killed a bookmaker working for the Mafia in the city's North End. Martorano said the six main Winter Hill partners, Bulger among them, decided to do the Mafia a favor by getting rid of Notorangeli.
"We decided to take him out," Martorano said.
It took the gang four attempts before they got Notorangeli. And before he was shot to death, two bystanders were killed and one wounded.
On each attempt, Martorano said, the gang set out in a caravan of cars. He said the lead car was always "a boiler," the stolen car carrying killers armed with machine guns. Following were chase cars, which were supposed to crash into police vehicles in the event of pursuit.
Martorano said Bulger was present at all three attempts and on one occasion, when he had driven a chase car, complained that he almost got hit by machine gun fire in the confusion when an unwitting motorist almost drove into the gunfight.
"We pulled up to the car to give it another broadside," Martorano said. "A car came out of the side street; we couldn't see it. Jimmy (Bulger) had to pull out and cut it off. He thought he was going to get shot because there were tracer bullets in the machine gun and he could see them going over him."
"Was he angry?" Wyshak asked.
"Well, sort of joking about it," Martorano said.
The gang later found Notorangeli hiding in Florida and shot him. Gang members also shot his brother, known as Indian Joe, to avoid later problems, Martorano said.
Martorano also testified about payments the gang made to law enforcement officers, including former FBI agent John Connolly, for information that that they used to avoid arrest. Connolly is serving a 40-year sentence in Florida, where he was convicted in 2008 of providing Bulger and Flemmi with information the gang used to kill other FBI informants.
Martorano was one of the chief witnesses against Connolly.
Connolly was taking money from gang members — Martorano testified Monday he gave Connolly a 2-carat diamond — and at the same time Connolly listed Bulger and Flemmi as top informants in the FBI's war on the Mafia.
The indictment against Bulger says his status as an FBI informant helped him avoid arrest for decades. He also is accused of involvement in 19 murders, extortion, drug dealing, money laundering and weapons offenses.
Bulger's lawyers have said they will attack Martorano's veracity when they question him, perhaps as soon as Tuesday. The defense lawyers have said Martorano is saying what he thinks prosecutors wants in return for an extraordinarily lenient sentence for 20 murders.
Martorano served 12 years in prison under a plea bargain with prosecutors. Prosecutors said Martorano is a critical witness against Bulger and the plea deal was the only way they could guarantee his testimony.
The years since Martorano's arrest in 1995 have been profitable in other ways too.
He said he sold the rights to his life to a movie production company for $250,000 and hopes to make more if a movie is made. He said he made about $75,000 on the book "Hitman" by a Boston Herald columnist. Martorano denied being a hit man, because he testified he never took a fee for killing anyone. He said agreed to the title because the author liked it.
"He thought it would sell better," Martorano testified.
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