Brian McGrory

Whitey, still flying high

By Brian McGrory
Globe Columnist / July 1, 2011

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Enough already with the helicopters and the jets and the caravans that make Whitey Bulger look like he’s the exiled president of a developing nation.

Last week, the feds could have bought the last three rows of coach on a commercial flight from Los Angeles to Boston to get the old man back home. But no, they flew him aboard a Gulfstream, the favored aircraft of celebrities and billionaires the world over.

Better, apparently, to drop tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money so a mass murderer could yuk it up with the feds about his years on the run.

Yesterday, it was a helicopter ride from Plymouth to Boston for yet another appearance in US District Court. This is how the president of the United States travels short distances, folks, not some accused mass murderer. Did Bulger complain that he gets carsick on the Southeast Expressway? Or are they somehow worried that an 81-year-old might escape? If it’s the former, give him a paper bag; if the latter, hire better marshals.

Of course, the feds will claim it’s all in the name of security for the most wanted former fugitive that Boston has ever known, their point being that it wouldn’t look good if someone gunned him down on his way into town. Vigilance is fine, but a bulletproof van seems to work perfectly well for everybody else.

This is getting very old very fast, the fancy rides, the lawyer who met him yesterday and said, ”my pleasure,” the preferential treatment given to his family in court.

One week in and Bulger is suddenly feeling like an obnoxious in-law on an unexpected visit - costing us a fortune and refusing to get out of our way. We paid for his flight back home. We’re paying for his three squares in the Plymouth House of Correction. We’re paying for his rides by air and ground to court. And now we’re paying for the lawyer who’s going to stall this whole thing to the heavens in US District Court.

I understand about justice, which is why I understand that there are plenty of drug dealers and murderers who are getting precisely none of this treatment in federal court. There are no flights, no SUVS, no getting whisked before a federal judge every time they have another question or issue about the law. They’re sitting in a cell biding time while their mediocre lawyers figure out how to spell-check their next brief.

To make things worse, there’s no end in sight to any of this. The hearings, the flights, the star treatment will go on until he dies of natural causes, and knowing the feds, they’ll probably get him a suite at Mass General and ask their very best doctors in the world to do everything possible to prolong his life.

Fortunately, I come with a solution, one we should jump on today. Ship Bulger straight to Oklahoma, where he is wanted for murder, for some prairie-style justice.

Have you ever taken a look at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, all stark and white and mean? Oklahoma is a state that knows a thing or two about taking care of prisoners - and not in a way that the prisoners necessarily like.

And if by some freak of nature he is acquitted in Oklahoma, there’s still Florida. And all the while, the federal charges aren’t going away.

Bulger, even in custody, seems to mock us. And the feds, even in victory, can’t stop helping his cause.

Brian McGrory is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at