He was escorted into the courtroom, a wrinkled old codger, with little indication that he once made grown men literally piss their pants in fear. His manner of walking is now more a shuffle than a strut. James “Whitey” Bulger, alleged criminal mastermind, mob boss, street hoodlum, longtime fugitive from the law, has finally arrived at his moment of reckoning at a defense table in courtroom #11 at the Moakley Federal Courthouse on the South Boston waterfront.

Just a few short miles from where Bulger once allegedly controlled the city’s criminal underworld, opening statements were delivered today in the most explosive organized crime trial to ever take place in this city. Whitey stands accused in a 32-count indictment that alleges he ran a racketeering enterprise from 1975 to 1995 that was second-to-none in New England. Bookmaking, dope peddling, extortion, gun trafficking, money laundering, and at least 19 acts of murder are attributed to a man who has been characterized as a Machiavellian gangster and ruthless serial killer. Now, at age 83, stripped of his “street cred” and power, he is the Incredible Shrinking Man, a physically diminished former gangster with a bad heart and few friends or advocates beyond an imprisoned girlfriend and a defense attorney who, though highly capable, is in the position of Hans Brinker, the Little Dutch Boy with his finger in the dyke, facing a tidal wave of incriminating evidence.

The true manifestation of Bulger’s powerlessness is the manner in which he is forced to sit mute, as Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian T. Kelly excoriates the former mob boss. Bulger was “a hands on killer,” proclaims Kelly, delivering the government’s opening statement in workmanlike fashion, focusing primarily on the unseemly details of the mobster’s many alleged murders.

Bucky Barrett, a Southie criminal, ran afoul of Bulger when he sought to hide the lucrative proceeds of a jewelry heist. Said Kelly, “This man here, Bulger, shot him in the back of the head.” Eddie Connors, a local hood, “couldn’t keep his mouth shut,” a prerequisite of anyone who did business with Bulger. Connors was lured to a phone booth, and then, said Kelly, “Death came calling in the form of this man over here” – he points at Whitey – “who riddled the phone booth with bullets.” John McIntyre was suspected of being a rat, so Bulger first tried to strangle him with a rope that was too thick; McIntyre gagged but did not die. “You want one in the head?” Bulger allegedly asked. “Yes, please,” said McIntyre. So Whitey shot him in the head.

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