It's 'Whitey' vs. 'The Rifleman' as Bulger defense goes for top prosecution witness

Story highlights

  • Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi was "Whitey" Bulger's partner and henchman
  • Flemmi is now a star prosecution witness in Bulger's federal trial on murder and other charges
  • Bulger's lawyer grills Flemmi on killings, Flemmi's admission he molested his stepdaughter
  • The stepdaughter subsequently was killed by Bulger; Flemmi says he did nothing

They were partners-in-crime for more than two decades: Reputed mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger and his henchman, Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi.

In the course of three days on the witness stand in Bulger's federal trial, Flemmi has described in great detail the murders he says he witnessed Bulger commit and he has portrayed himself as a lackey following orders and getting rid of physical evidence -- pulling victims' teeth to avoid identification and disposing of bodies.

On Tuesday, Bulger's lawyer, Hank Brennan, tried to reverse the image and portray Flemmi as a man who knew how to kill people independently of Bulger. He focused in on Flemmi's common-law stepdaughter Deborah Hussey. Not only did Flemmi molest her when she was 17 (an act Flemmi maintains happened twice and was consensual), he also lured her to her death at age 26 after first taking her shopping.

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"That murder could have been prevented by one word from Bulger," Flemmi said. "All he had to say was p-a-s-s, pass. I would have been happy."

Flemmi testified he watched and did nothing as Bulger strangled the troubled girl with his bare hands. After she was dead Flemmi removed her beige sweater, pulled-out her teeth as he had done with other victims to thwart identification of bodies, and then buried her in a basement floor, he testified.

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"You murdered your stepdaughter," Brennan charged. "In the eyes of the law, yes," Flemmi responded, "but physically no."

Bulger's lawyer then continued to portray Flemmi as a pedophile, whose actions contributed to his stepdaughter's drug addiction. Flemmi became unnerved, pointing at Bulger who sat just eight feet away, snapping, "You want to talk about pedophilia, right over there at that table." He then referenced a trip Bulger made to Mexico with a 16-year-old-girlfriend.

Lawyers for Bulger, who is charged with 19 murders, extortion and racketeering, also questioned Flemmi about the murder of Flemmi's girlfriend, Debbie Davis.

Flemmi said in earlier testimony that Bulger strangled the 26-year-old beauty because she knew the name of a rogue FBI agent who had recruited Bulger and Flemmi to work as informants.

"In Bulger's eyes that was a serious offense," Flemmi testified.

It's 'Whitey' vs. 'The Rifleman' as Bulger defense goes for top prosecution

Brennan asked about dinner meetings Flemmi had with Connolly at Flemmi's parents' home and wondered why they weren't killed. Flemmi called the question "ridiculous" and said, "All my mother knew was how to cook and she was a very good cook. She didn't know John Connolly from a hole in the wall."

Bulger's lawyer pointed out Davis was murdered after Flemmi learned she was involved with another man.

And he tried pointing out inconsistencies in Flemmi's prior testimony about exactly where the woman died in the house she had been lured to, upstairs or after Flemmi and Bulger carried her to the basement.

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"I'm not a doctor. She looked dead to me. She felt dead. She was dead," said Flemmi, who testified earlier that Bulger strangled Davis upstairs. He also said her death was "such a distasteful act, it's a guilt trip I've been on all these years."

In an attempt to show Flemmi was his own man, Brennan led Flemmi through a series of murders and crimes he committed before he met Bulger. Flemmi contended as part of a criminal gang, he couldn't back out or say 'No' once the gang had made a decision.

"You don't understand the underworld at all," Flemmi hissed at Bulger's lawyer."You don't know nothing. That's the real world. That's the world I was involved in."

The trial resumes Wednesday with Flemmi still on the stand.

Read more: Man who'd been set to testify against Bulger found dead