New details surrounding the inmates accused of beating to death James “Whitey” Bulger have emerged Monday, alleging that prisoners knew ahead of time the notorious Boston gangster and long-time FBI informant would soon be arriving at the penitentiary.
Sean McKinnon, 36, has been charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and making false statements to a federal agent. According to The Hill, McKinnon told his mother during a phone call that inmates were aware of Bulger transferring to the U.S. Penitentiary Hazleton in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia, in October 2018.
According to a transcript, U.S. Assistant Attorney Hannah Norwalk said McKinnon’s mother warned her son to stay away from Bulger.
“I can’t,” McKinnon said.
“You get in trouble,” the mother responded.
“Don’t worry. Oh, I don’t plan it,” McKinnon said.
McKinnon is accused of serving as the lookout while Fotios Geas, also known as “Freddy,” 55, and Paul J. DeCologero, also known as “Pauly,” 48, were allegedly pounding Bulger’s head with a padlock stuffed inside a sock 12 hours after authorities transferred him from another facility.
McKinnon and Geas shared a cell at the time of Bulger’s death.
McKinnon’s defense attorney told the judge that her client calling his mother does not indicate he was involved in any plot to kill Bulger, adding that “the entire unit was alerted” about Bulger’s transfer.
“The fact that his roommate was a henchman has nothing to do with him,” defense attorney Christine Bird said, according to the transcript. “He didn’t select his roommate.”
“The fact that he knew that doesn’t really tell the Court that he was involved in the conspiracy,” Bird added.
The Hill reports that Norwalk told the judge that security footage shows Geas and DeCologero entering Bulger’s cell around 6 a.m. At the same time, McKinnon sat at a table that looked straight at the other two men inside the cell for about seven minutes. Authorities found Bulger dead two hours later.
Norwalk said that DeCologero “said as soon as they saw Bulger come into the unit, they planned to kill him,” adding that he told this inmate witness that McKinnon was the lookout.
Geas and DeCologero received charges of allegedly aiding and abetting first-degree murder and assault, resulting in serious bodily injury. Authorities filed a separate charge against Geas for an alleged murder by a federal inmate serving a life sentence.
Geas remains incarcerated at the Hazleton penitentiary, while authorities have housed DeCologero within the federal prison system.
McKinnon was on federal supervised release at the time of the indictment, but was arrested Thursday in Florida and received a separate charge for allegedly making false statements to a federal agent.
Bulger, who had already been serving two life terms in person for his role in 11 murders spanning several decades, died at 89.
Bulger’s death has been called a security failure for the federal prison system, and with the new revelations unsealed in court Monday, it has raised additional questions about how authorities handle prison transfers — especially with one of the nation’s most prolific crime lords.
NBC reports that a former Bureau of Prisons investigator said he would have “raised holy hell over” Bulger’s transfer into USP Hazleton’s general population.
“It’s just absurd that this happened,” Vito Maraviglia, the former investigator, told NBC.
WCVB reports that Bugler’s family blames the federal prison system for allowing inmates to attack an elderly man who was in a wheelchair when he arrived.
Hank Brennan, an attorney for Bulger’s estate, told 5 Investigates that they “didn’t need affirmation to know that the system put a hit on James Bulger.”
“The DOJ has hidden this confirmatory information from the public and Mr. Bulger’s family for four years but covetously spews these facts publicly when it serves its interest to deprive a person of liberty,” Brennan said in a statement, according to WCVB. “The DOJ repeatedly proves it follows no moral compass and is strictly loyal to its own self-interest.”