WBUR reporter David Boeri laughed when I asked him how it felt to see the story of Whitey Bulger, which he’s covered for 26 years, drawing to a close with the Boston mob boss’ conviction on 31 counts of racketeering.
“This is a case that’s never seen a silver bullet or a stake through the heart,” Boeri said in a phone interview, “and each time people proclaim it’s over, it rises up.” Boeri went on to make a case for why the story could conceivably go on for a very long time. Florida and Oklahoma might still want to try Bulger, and there could be civil suits for the murders the government couldn’t prove his involvement in, as well as “the extent of FBI misconduct and corruption.”
“This was a pretty narrow trial,” Boeri said. “It’s never seen a big trial or a widespread investigation or accounting of all the people who were on the take.”
OK, Boeri, but are you taking a break? “I’m definitely taking a break!” he said, adding that he has 20 filing cabinets filled with notes, documents and transcripts, plus reels of video from his days as a WCVB-TV reporter in the hayloft of his barn. “There’s other stuff that I have safeguarded elsewhere,” he said.
Boeri — who has “talked to the good good guys, the good bad guys, the bad good guys and the bad bad guys” — told me how he once convinced someone in the witness protection program to talk. The fellow, “a big brute of a guy, his arms are folded,” didn’t recognize Boeri from TV. “Finally I looked at him and said, ‘I’m a student of history and I’m here to see you.” Entrance granted.
He’d like to report on something other than Bulger: “I worry about being typecast,” he said. “I don’t want to be thought of as the Bulger reporter. It happens to be part of my interest. I’ve always justified it as being not about crime but about corruption at the Justice Department.”
As Boeri writes on WBUR’s splendid website about the Bulger trial: “Whitey Bulger is smaller than what he seems. … If the FBI had not made Whitey its favorite mobster, broken the rules and rigged the game to his benefit, Bulger would never have reached as high as he did.”
“But yeah,” he said. “I need to step away. I need a break and I need to go in an isolation tank so I can forget about this for a while.”
There’s talk of an e-book, Boeri said. He has no plans for any other type of book.
“I’m not terribly fond of most of the books that have come out,” he said. “This site has allowed me to do a lot of what I might want to do, and if I were to do it I’d do it in a different format. I’d do it more first person.” He pauses: “I don’t want to get into that now. I want to get back into new water, start swimming in new water.”