Howie Carr blows up

By DAVID BOERI  |  March 16, 2006

— After Whitey finds out (but not the way Howie reports it) that the FBI has learned his alias and registration, which creates the possibility of catching Bulger through a routine traffic stop, Howie has Whitey driving to the wrong city: Yonkers instead of Chicago. There he drops off the wrong car with the wrong mileage and meets Kevin Weeks, who — and Howie has this wrong too — has flown there (he drove) to help come up with new identities.

— Whitey was using the alias “Thomas Baxter.” Howie gets that right, but wrongly reports that the real and deceased Thomas Baxter was from Woburn. (He was actually from Jamaica Plain.)

— Next, according to Howie, Weeks returns to Boston (but not in the way Howie reports) and works on getting new identification for new aliases. Howie misses the next meeting in New York, which didn’t involve Weeks, but someone Weeks had sent in his place because the heat was on. This would have made for a great story if Howie had dug, because the guy who went in Weeks’s stead and delivered the new IDs said that Bulger tried to kill him afterward.

— Carr then reports that Bulger returned to Chicago and later flew to New York. Yet no evidence ever shows Bulger on a flight, although there are the tickets Howie doesn’t seem to know about — even though they have been previously reported on — that have Bulger and his girlfriend taking Amtrak as “Mark and Carol Shapeton” from Chicago to New York and back. “He didn’t fly, he used Amtrak,” Weeks asserts.

— Amid the jumbled chronology, Howie puts Whitey in South Boston at a pay phone at the Conley Terminal, where he makes a threatening call to the corrupt FBI supervisor John Morris. This, if true, would be important because it would put Bulger, now a fugitive, back in South Boston in October 1995. But here, too, Howie gets it wrong. Whitey never made that phone call from the Conley Terminal; Howie might have realized that had he read later clips by the Globe’s Shelley Murphy, who has diligently worked to get the facts right over the years.

This last mistake best illustrates the problem with clip jobs: if you rely on old news articles containing mistaken information — as was the case regarding Howie’s account of Bulger’s phone call from South Boston — you’re stuck with the error unless you find a new clip that corrects the old.

In fact, Bulger, who did make the phone call, wasn’t in South Boston at all — “he never came back to South Boston except to drop off [his old girlfriend] Theresa.” That is at least how Kevin Weeks sees it.

— Later, Howie has Whitey and his girlfriend disappearing for good in September 1996, noting that “there has not been a confirmed sighting ... in the United States since.” Perhaps. But if that’s the case, why isn’t Howie taking to task the FBI — the apparent though unattributed source of his information — for its assertions after September 1996 that reported sightings of Whitey in the United States were reliable? (This from the Globe in May 2000, for instance: “The last confirmed sighting of Bulger ... was in October 1998 at a convenience store in Sloan, Iowa, [FBI supervisor Thomas] Cassano said.”

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Related: We found Whitey Bulger . . . and he’s still missing, Brass balls and cold steel, The odd couple, More more >
  Topics: News Features , Amtrak, Howie, Organized Crime,  More more >
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  •   HOLLOW JUSTICE  |  October 05, 2011
    When Whitey Bulger was arrested in Santa Monica, California, this summer, it may have seemed that a new day had dawned for the local FBI and for the Justice Department.
    I get a lot of calls about Bulger, but this one was different.

 See all articles by: DAVID BOERI