The debate is still raging about the deeds and fates of folks who revealed the secrets and procedures of government entities. Some say they revealed information that we already knew, i.e., that the government spies on us. Without taking a stand on that particular minefield, this Boston criminal lawyer brings you an interesting example about folks and recorded telephone calls.

As you know, James “Whitey” Bulger’s multiple Massachusetts murder and racketeering trial is currently playing at Boston’s federal courthouse. This week, the prosecution played some statements from Bulger which had been recorded.

“Was this a taped conversation between someone and him back in the proverbial ‘day’?”

Nope. These were conversations carried on relatively recently as he was in custody awaiting this particular trial.

“How was someone able to record his conversation? I thought it was a felony to tape record someone without their knowing it.”

In Massachusetts it is. However, Bulger and his family members with whom he spoke had been advised that the conversations were being recorded.

Nevertheless, the jury got to hear a chuckling reminiscent Bulger recall for his
brother John “Jackie” Bulger in December how he loaded and trained a shotgun on some youth he and Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi thought were going to rob their South Boston liquor store.

In sum, the jury heard three such recording. Two between Bulger and John and the other with Bulger and his nephew William Bulger Jr., the son of former state Senate President William Bulger.

Illustrating the flavor of the story, Bulger is apparently also heard mimicking a machine gun as he explained how his name came to be connected with the 1975 slaughter of Dorchester barkeep Edward “Eddie” Connors in a phone booth – one of 19 murders Bulger is on trial for, in addition to racketeering, extortion and money laundering charges.

You see, as an inmate, Bulger is not allowed contact visits with these family members. So, as portrayed in the movies, the conversations are done through an in-house receiver.

The evidence was authenticated by Ken Brady, an investigator for the Plymouth Sheriff’s Department, who testified that each inmate, including Bulger, is assigned a unique PIN number for such calls and both parties are warned by an automated voice that they are being recorded.

Sam’s Take On Incarceration And The Right To Privacy

Like it or not, one loses certain rights when one is incarcerated. Now, that may seem unfair given that, while awaiting trial, a defendant is supposed to be deemed innocent until proven guilty. We have discussed the fact that such people may be presumed innocent, but assumed guilty.

In Bulger’s case, of course, this was never much of a problem. Everybody determined him guilty since this case began. But I digress.

One of the rights a prisoner loses is most of his or her right to privacy. Certainly the right to private conversations, unless it is with an attorney or someone like that. Telephone calls are routinely recorded as are conversations through the system which was used in this case.

I receive collect calls from jails and prisons all the time from clients. Each time a recorded indicates that the call is being recorded. There is no secret about this. As a result, I am very careful as to what is discussed with my client. You see, attorney calls are not supposed to be recorded or listened to, but sometimes it pays to act the part of a paranoid.

Of course, personal conversations with regular people are fair game.

One would imagine that Bulger, not an uninformed man, would have paid attention to this. That last thing a defendant at trial wants to hear are unfortunate words spoken in his own voice.

“But, Sam, what is the relevance of such conversations? Clearly, they take place long after the events at issue at trial.”

Yes. However, some such conversations contain admissions or statements which are inconsistent with other statements made by the defendant. Sometimes it is also used to reflect a certain attitude.

In this case, it would seem that the government wanted to show the admissions of what Bulger was doing in these little stories. Further, I am sure they were also pleased to demonstrate what they will call a “callous” disregard for the lives that were being ended or ruined.

By the way, it may also be used to pave the way of cross-examination of certain defense witnesses such as these family members.

Have a great, safe and law-abiding Fourth!

If you would like to see the original story upon this blog is based, as well as hear the recorded statements, please go to

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