James ‘Whitey’ Bulger: Three charged in 2018 prison killing of notorious gangster
WEST VIRGINIA: Three men were indicted in the prison killing of infamous Boston gangster James "Whitey" Bulger. The 89-year-old Bulger was discovered unresponsive in October 2018 at a maximum-security facility in West Virginia. "Whitey" Bulger was beaten to death in federal prison nearly four years ago by three men, one of whom was a mafia enforcer. The attack brought to light the widespread violence and astounding security flaws within the prison system.
Fotios Geas, 55, Paul J DeCologero, 48, and Sean McKinnon, 36, were charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder by the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of West Virginia.
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While they were detained at the US Penitentiary Hazleton in October 2018, Geas and DeCologero were accused of repeatedly hitting Bulger in the head. The assault resulted in serious bodily injury and first-degree murder were additional charges brought against Geas and DeCologero. Geas is accused of killing a federal prisoner serving a life sentence. Meanwhile, McKinnon is accused of lying to a federal agent.
Bulger, also known as "Whitey" for his brilliant platinum hair and one of the most infamous criminals and fugitives in the country, was the leader of the Winter Hill Gang, a vicious criminal organization that operated in South Boston from the 1970s through the 1990s.
After eluding federal authorities for 16 years, Bulger was one of the most sought-after criminals in the nation until his arrest in 2011. The 89-year-old crime boss was serving a life sentence for 11 murders and other crimes at the time of his death, and he had become frail and dependent on a wheelchair.
Federal prosecutors acknowledged they were looking into the case as a homicide as soon as he passed away. Prison staff members at the time claimed that Geas, a known mafia operative who, like Bulger, was serving a life sentence for a string of violent crimes, including murder, was one of the suspects who had been abruptly moved to segregation pending the conclusion of the investigation.
Geas and his brother were accused of being involved in the 2003 slaying of Adolfo "Big Al" Bruno, a crime boss in Springfield, Massachusetts. The testimony of informants, a role that Bulger once accepted for federal authorities to shield him from prosecution for his own violent crimes, played a significant part in Geas' conviction.
When it was noticed that the elderly prisoner had not shown up for breakfast, two officers went looking for Bulger and found him in his cell. When the officers discovered Bulger in his bunk, he was initially thought to be sleeping because of the covers. The officers unwrapped Bulger from his bed to reveal his bloodied and brutally beaten face and upper body when he didn't react to their presence.
One of the staff members who saw the body remarked, "It was a beating." Both fists and a lock in a sock could have been used to accomplish the task. The employee mentioned a common prison practice wherein ordinary padlocks are concealed in socks and violently swung at predetermined targets.
According to the staff, Before the body was found by the officers, at least two other inmates were seen on video entering and leaving the cell. Because cell doors are opened early in the morning to prepare for breakfast and remain open until late in the afternoon, just before the evening inmate count, the unit was accessible.
However, according to prison records, he received punishment for threatening a health services employee at the beginning of 2018. According to a staff member with knowledge of the incident, Bulger mentioned a "day of reckoning."
After that, Bulger was relocated to a more secure residence before being sent to West Virginia. The staff there was well aware of the elderly gangster, but due to his deteriorating health, his threat of violence as a long-time mob boss had largely diminished.
Geas remains detained at USP Hazelton. DeCologero is still being held in the federal prison system but not at USP Hazelton. McKinnon was detained on Thursday in Florida while under federal supervision and released at the time of the indictment.
With the suicide of alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein in 2019, problems with the federal Bureau of Prisons have come under increased scrutiny as a result of Bulger's murder. The Justice Department last month appointed Colette Peters, the longtime head of the Oregon Department of Corrections, to oversee the vast federal prison system, which has been plagued by ongoing security, violence, and staffing issues.
Bulger's family had previously sued the Federal Bureau of Prisons and 30 anonymous prison staff members, claiming they had failed to protect him. At USP Hazelton, where staff members and advocates had long issued warnings about hazardous conditions, Bulger was the third prisoner to pass away in the preceding six months.