Accused lookout in James 'Whitey' Bulger prison killing pleads guilty, gets no additional time

Bulger was the much-feared leader of Boston's Irish mob who evaded capture for more than 16 years before his June 2011 arrest.

ByHolmes Lybrand, Elizabeth Wolfe, Hannah Rabinowitz and Ashley R. Williams, CNN CNNWire logo
Monday, June 17, 2024
3 charged with killing Boston gangster Whitey Bulger in 2018
Three men, including a Mafia hitman, have been charged in the killing of notorious Boston crime boss James "Whitey" Bulger in a West Virginia prison.

BOSTON -- Sean McKinnon, one of three inmates charged in the West Virginia prison killing of notorious Boston gangster James "Whitey" Bulger nearly six years ago, is set to enter a guilty plea and be sentenced Monday, according to a court filing.

The video featured is from a previous report.

Prosecutors have accused McKinnon of acting as a lookout on October 30, 2018, while fellow US Penitentiary Hazelton inmates Fotios Geas and Paul J. DeCologero bludgeoned Bulger to death less than 12 hours after the former crime boss was transferred to the facility in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia.

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Bulger was the much-feared leader of Boston's Irish mob who evaded capture for more than 16 years before his June 2011 arrest. He found unresponsive in his prison cell and died of blunt-force head injuries as a result of being "assaulted by others," according to his death certificate. He was 89 at the time of his death.

McKinnon, Geas and DeCologero each agreed to plead guilty, according to motions filed by prosecutors last month.

Each man was charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and McKinnon was also charged with making false statements to a federal agent regarding his knowledge of Bulger's killing, CNN previously reported.

Geas and DeCologero are accused of striking Bulger several times, resulting in his death, according to the US Attorney's Office for the Northern District of West Virginia. They face first-degree murder and assault charges in relation to the killing, and Geas is also charged with murder by a federal inmate serving a life sentence, court filings show.

DeCologero is scheduled to appear in court on August 1 to enter a guilty plea and be sentenced and Geas is expected in court for the same reasons on September 6, according to court records.

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Bulger's criminal reign as head of south Boston's Winter Hill gang from the late 1970s through the mid-1990s made him one of the most wanted men in the US, who avoided arrest from federal authorities on racketeering and murder charges for over a decade.

A judge later described Bulger's terrorizing of Boston as involving "unfathomable" acts. Federal prosecutors say he led the gang through the mid-1990s.

Bulger, who inspired Jack Nicholson's character in Martin Scorsese's 2006 film, "The Departed," was arrested in California in 2011 and sentenced to two life terms in prison in 2013 after a jury found he was responsible for 11 deaths among other crimes, CNN previously reported.

In a now-dismissed lawsuit, Bulger's family in 2020 sued prison employees after he died, alleging they were "intentional or deliberately indifferent" to dangers the former crime boss faced in prison, and that it appeared Bulger was "deliberately sent to his death."

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Though a judge dismissed the lawsuit in 2022, the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General released a report in December of that year outlining a series of missteps by prison authorities that may have jeopardized Bulger's safety during his prison transfer.

Bulger's placement into the West Virginia facility's general population after guards spoke of his impending arrival in front of inmates is mentioned in the report as one of the mistakes made.

The report said inmates' prior knowledge of Bulger's arrival at Hazelton on October 29, 2018, significantly increased the likelihood that he faced imminent harm at the facility.

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