Confessed hitman John Martorano, who has admitted killing 20 people, told a Boston court today that he was testifying against his alleged former mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger because "it broke my heart" to discover Bulger was an FBI informant.
Some of Martorano's victims were innocent bystanders. One man was mistakenly murdered because he drove the same kind of car as the intended victim.
Today, he is a federal witness against Bulger, accused of being the head of the Winter Hill Gang and responsible for 19 murders.
The aging hitman, Martorano, 72, told the court that he was heart broken when he found out that Bulger and Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi were working for the FBI at the same time they allegedly oversaw Boston's rackets. Martorano testified that he named his youngest son, James Stephen, after the his two criminal cohorts.
"They were my partners in crime, my best friends, my children's godfathers," Martorano told the Boston court today.
"When I heard they were informants, it sort of broke my heart. They broke all trust that we had and loyalties," Martorano testified, facing Bulger for the first time since the accused Boston mob boss fled Massachusetts 18 years ago after being tipped off about a federal indictment by rogue FBI agent John Connolly.
Martorano also testified against Connolly, who is serving a life sentence.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Wyshack spent the morning recalling murders that Martorano was involved with and the methods used, and introducing Martorano's job lingo including "boilers" for stolen cars and "greasers" for machine guns.
Martorano also explained to the court why he -- and allegedly Bulger -- resorted to murder so frequently.
"We had a lot of problems with people. And you know, you just killed them before they kill you. It's kill or get killed at times," Martorano testified.
The confessed hitman testified over and over to questions from Wyshak that went along the lines of, "What did you do?" and "I shot him."
Sometimes Wyshak asked "where" and Martorano would answer, "In the heart" or with a "broadside," which was described as chasing a moving vehicle with two shooters firing machine guns at the occupants.
After one murder, the body of the victim was in the trunk of a "boiler," but the vehicle was stolen by teenager while the corpse was still inside.
To commit another murder Martorano testified that he got the address of a phone booth from the phone company after he called a supervisor of the company and said that he was supposed to pick up his kid, but that his son had run out of change before he could get the address.
Martorano was so proficient he would simply shoot a man, then call in underlings to "come in and bury him somewhere." After the murder of James Souza, for example, Martorano testified that he "went home to clean up."
"The blood was everywhere," he said.
Evidence photos included bullet-riddled cars and phone booths and a dead body displayed in a morgue. There was also testimony about a corrupt Massachusetts state police lieutenant who tipped off the Winter Hill gang to wiretaps and how Martorano would drop off $1,000 at a Holiday Inn on the Charlestown/Somerville line.
"We would look at the list of the people whose phones he was bugging. If they weren't with us, we didn't say nothing. If they were with us, we told him to go around them or something," he said.
But the gang's real power came in the early 1970s when a transfer to the Boston FBI field office, South Boston native John Connolly, visited William Bulger, then a state senator and James "Whitey" Bulger's older brother, Martorano testified. Connolly asked William Bulger if there was anything he could do for him, Martorano testified, and the senator responded: "You could keep my brother out of a trouble, that would be helpful."
The FBI agent agreed to meet with Whitey Bulger, and the Winter Hill gang was apprised of the sit-down.
"We told him, 'Be a good listener. At all times be a good listener and never tell him anything,'"' Martorano said.
Martorano said that Connolly started to protect the Winter Hill gang almost immediately, warning them that a business owner they had tried to extort had gone to the FBI. After that, "We saw the value of the relationship," Martorano told the court.
To say thank you, Martorano said the gang gave Connolly a "2-carat diamond."
But Martorano insisted he had no idea that Bulger was giving Connolly much more than money and gifts: information on rival wiseguys
Martorano's testimony comes more than a decade after he cut a deal with the government to testify against Bulger. He has been a free man since 2007 and Bulger's defense attorney J.W. Carney tried to delay the trial by arguing that the hitman has continued his life a crime, a claim that was denied by prosecutors and dismissed by a federal judge.
Still, Carney insists that Martorano – and other government witnesses expected to testify against Bulger – are not credible because they pointed fingers at one another to avoid lengthy prison sentences. Bulger sidekick, Kevin Weeks, and Flemmi are also on the witness list.
Carney had especially harsh words for Martorano calling him "criminal psychopath."
"He would kill people almost randomly. He would kill people as easily as we would order a cup of coffee... The federal government was so desperate to have John Martorano testify ... they basically put their hands up in the air and said take anything you want," Carney said.
Martorano testified after cross-examination of Boston bookmaker Dick O'Brien, 84, who was one of two bookies who testified that they paid "rent" to Bulger to stay in business. He recounted Bulger telling one bookmaking agent who got out of line that he liked to "kill a**holes like him." James Katz, 73, also testified that people who didn't pay Bulger could "wind up in the hospital."
O'Brien, 84, said he was trained in the business by his father, but when he brought his daughter into the mobbed-up enterprise she had a nervous breakdown and had to be hospitalized.
The breakdown came after Flemmi warned O'Brien what happened to turncoats.
Before he went to the meeting with Flemmi, O'Brien told his daughter to go to the FBI in Miami rather than in Boston because he didn't trust the agents working in that field office.
"It really upset her. We were very close," O'Brien said.
Carney asked if he came home after that meeting in Florida, whether he was harmed. O'Brien answered, "By the good graces of John Martorano I wasn't."
Bulger, 83, is charged with a 32-count indictment that includes accusations that he committed or ordered 19 murders, including the killings of two women who were romantically involved with his underlings. Bulger's trial comes 18 years after he disappeared ahead of a federal indictment.
He was arrested in June 2011 at a Santa Monica apartment complex where Bulger and his longtime companion Catherine Greig lived for 16 years as Charlie and Carol Gasko strolling the California coastline and shopping on the Third Avenue Promenade. Carney accused the FBI of "pretending to look for him" during opening arguments last week.
The government called those accusations absurd.