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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Edward Helmore

Accused lookout in James ‘Whitey’ Bulger prison killing gets time served

Man wearing jail uniform looks into camera
Sean McKinnon’s mugshot at the Marion county jail in Ocala, Florida, on 18 August 2022. Photograph: Marion county sheriff’s office/Reuters

The man accused of acting as lookout during the prison killing of the notorious Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger won’t serve additional prison time after pleading guilty Monday to a charge of lying to federal agents.

Sean McKinnon, one of three men indicted in the 2018 prison beating death of 89-year-old Bulger, is now set to be released from custody after a judge on Monday sentenced him to time served. Bulger was infamously the head of the Boston-area Irish mafia Winter Hill Gang, who spent 16 years on the run before being captured in 2011.

The sentence reflected the time McKinnon, 38, had served since his arrest in August 2022. Two defendants, Paul DeCologero and Fotios “Freddy” Geas, are set for sentencing in August. McKinnon was already out of prison by the time of his indictment.

Bulger, who lived a double life as a mobster and FBI informant, had been convicted of 11 murders and been sentenced to life in prison. Within 12 hours of being transferred from a prison in Florida to to a penitentiary in West Virginia in October 2018, he was set upon and killed.

Prisoners later reported to investigators some of the accused men said Bulger had been killed because he was a “snitch”. He was beaten to death using a lock attached to a belt in less than five minutes. The assailants had also tried to gouge out his eyes.

McKinnon reportedly told his mother that everyone on the prison unit knew of Bulger’s impending arrival. “You should know the name … Whitey Bulger,” he said on the call.

“Oh Jesus,” McKinnon’s mother said. “Stay away from him please.” McKinnon said he couldn’t; his cellmate Geas was “a henchman for a mob family out of New York and Boston”. (Geas is serving a life sentence for the 2003 gangland murders of the mob boss Adolfo “Big Al” Bruno.)

The third accused prisoner, DeCologero, was a member of an organized crime group on Boston’s North Shore that robbed rival drug dealers and killed a teenage girl they thought might give them up.

Kevin Cullen, a columnist for the Boston Globe and co-author of a bestselling biography of Bulger, said at the time that “it doesn’t make any sense that the Bureau of Prisons would put him [Bulger] within striking distance of people like Freddy Geas or Pauly DeCologero.

“Any organized crime or mafia guy would have a beef with Whitey because he was a rat,” Cullen added. “But there are any number of prisons where there aren’t any Boston-area gangsters. It was like, ‘Whitey’s coming and we’re going to kill him.’”

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