bureaucracybusters

OF COPS AND SNITCHES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on October 15, 2015 at 12:51 pm

In the bullet-riddled new movie, “Black Mass,” both FBI agents and criminals use plenty of four-leter words.

But the word both groups consider the most obscene is spelled with only three letters: R-a-t.

The movie is based on the true-life story of Irish mobster James “Whitey” Bulger and the secret deal he forged with John Connolly, his childhood friend-turned-FBI agent.

Johnny Depp as James “Whitey” Bulger

After decades of ignoring the Mafia, the FBI is now mounting an all-out effort against it.  One of the agents assigned to this war is Connolly, who is assigned to the Boston field office in 1975.

For Connolly (Joel Edgarton) winning this war means getting inside Intelligence on La Cosa Nostra’s leaders and operations.

And he believes that his former childhood friend, Bulger (played by an ice-cold Johnny Depp) can supply it.

The only question is: How to get him to do it?

And Connolly has the answer: An alliance between the FBI and Bulger’s Winter Hill gang.

At first, Bulger is wary.  He hates “finks,” “informers,” “rats.”  But Connolly persuades him that it’s one thing to inform on your own friends–and something different to inform on your sworn enemies, such as the Italian Mafia.

And to sweeten the deal further, Connolly offers Bulger immunity from FBI scrutiny. The only condition: “You can’t clip [kill] anyone.”

Bulger readily agrees–knowing he has no intention of keeping his word.  He will kill anyone who crosses him–or threatens to become “a problem.”

For Connolly and Bulger, the deal quickly proves golden.

Armed with Bulger’s inside tips, Connolly makes it possible for the FBI to plant an electronic bug in the headquarters of Gennaro Angiulo, the underboss [second-in-command] of the Raymond Patriarca Mafia Family’s operations in Boston.

John Connolly

Successful prosecutions follow.  To the Boston United States Attorney [Federal prosecutor] and his FBI superiors, Connolly is a mob-busting hero.

And with the dismantling of the Mafia’s operations, Bulger and his friend, enforcer Steven Flemmi, seize control of organized crime in Boston.

FBI photo of James “Whitey” Bulger at the time of his arrest

“Black Mass” vividly illustrates that even an elite law enforcement agency such as the FBI can’t operate effectively without informants.  And informants don’t come from the ranks of choirboys.  These are criminals willing to sell out their accomplices or their criminal competitors–for a price.

With his superiors happy, Connolly works virtually unsupervised.  He, Bulger, Flemmi and Connolly’s nominal supervisor, John Morris, are on a first-name basis.  Against all FBI regulations, he and Morris host a lavish steak dinner for Bulger and Flemmi at Connolly’s house.

But if Connolly refuses to admit that he’s been corrupted, his wife, Marianne [Julianne Nicholson] sees it all too well.  He begins dressing more flashily and carrying himself more arrogantly.  Eventually, Marianne locks him out of the house and forces him to sleep in his office.

Eventually, a new Federal prosecutor named Fred Wyshak [Corey Stoll] arrives in Boston, and he’s determined to go after Whitey Bulger.

Bypassing the FBI, Wyshak enlists State police and agents of the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). They start rounding up scores of criminals–including those forced to pay a “street tax” to Bulger.

Among those arrested are Bulger’s top enforcers Steven Flemmi and Kevin Weeks. Informed that Bulger has been “ratting out” not only the Mafia but his fellow Irish mobsters, they quickly turn on him.

Warned by Connolly that the FBI is going to arrest him, Bulger disappears–and goes on the run for 16 years.  For 12 of these he is on the Bureau’s “Ten Most Wanted” list.

The manhunt ends on June 22, 2011, when the FBI finally arresdts Bulger–now 81–at his apartment complex in Santa Monica, California.

After going to trial, he’s found guilty on August 12, 2013, on 31 counts of racketeering, money laundering, extortion and involvement in 19 murders.  He’s sentenced to two consecutive life terms plus five years.

For Connolly, a similar fate awaits.  His supervisor, Morris, decides to cut a deal for himself at the expense of hhis longtime friend.

Connolly is retired from the FBI and at home when two FBI agents show up to arrest him.  He’s indicted on charges of alerting Bulger and Flemmi to investigations, faisifying FBI reports to cover up their crimes, and accepting bribes.

Testifying against him are Flemmi and Weeks.  On November 6, 2008, Connolly is convicted.  He’s sentenced to 40 years in prison, after the judge notes that the former FBI star had “crossed to the dark side.”

“Black Mass” has a great many lessons to teach about the relationship between law enforcement agents and their criminal informants.

And how those relations can sometimes go terribly wrong.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: