Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi testifying as defendant James "Whitey" Bulger listens during his murder and racketeering trial on Thursday. (Margaret Small/AP)
Defense lawyer Hank Brennan has done a good job to this point in cross-examining Stehen Flemmi (Benji Ditchman) beginning with and staying with his involvement with his step-daughter Deborah Hussey who he admits sexually molesting, twice, but not intercourse, and whose murder he was involved in. Flemmi finds it difficult to say she's his daughter - in his mind it is easier to accept what he did to her if he can push her as far away from him as possible. Brennan did an excellent job wrapping the relationship around his neck.
"She called you daddy, didn't she?"
"Did you ever tell her not to call you daddy?"
Brennan asked one question that included the idea that he strangled her. Flemmi quickly said I didn't strangle her, Whitey did.
Brennan now is in the position to drive home to the jury what this man is all about. He's cornered him right off the start and he can't let the rat out. His first job has to be to pin the murder squarely on the shoulders of who is responsible for it. I'd do that now and then go back to the reason. Brennan might see it otherwise but let me tell you what I'd do.
I'd next ask him. "Mr. Flemmi who murdered the girl who called you daddy (or your daughter either driving home the point)? He'll say Whitey. You have to then ask, "Who led the girl who called you daddy to her death?" He'll have to admit he did. Then say "if you took the girl who called you daddy out in a canoe knowing she couldn't swim and tipped it over, who would you say killed her, the water? Fire the next one, "if you walked her into field of quick sand where she sunk in and died, would you say the quicksand killed her? "Isn't it true when you lead a person to a place where they will be killed you are the one responsible for the murder?" "If you didn't bring her there she would not have been killed, would she?"
The answers aren't important,the questions are. You want the jury to hate the man because you are just starting your cross-examination and you want him totally exposed, as if standing nude, in front of the jury.
You then go on with the murder after reinforcing he stood by and did nothing while Deborah was murdered. Brennan asks:"How did you take the girl who called you daddy to the basement." "When you got there, you took off her clothes, I believe you testified." "Did you do that before or after you started extracting the teeth from the mouth of the girl who called you daddy." "Now I checked my note, I don't see that you told us how many teeth you took out of her mouth, can you tell us." He won't be able to and will try to avoid the question. He'll say he can't remember.
Brennan now has the chance for the coup de grâce. "You buried her body in the cellar of the murder house at 799 East Broadway, isn't that so?" "You then moved her to Dorchester across from Florian Hall, didn't you?" "You buried your daughter a second time in an unmarked grave throwing her body next to the bodies of two men she never knew." "You know her body was eventually retrieved from the grave you threw her into, don't you." "The girl who called you daddy was identified through a forensic examination by a forensic anthropologist which I assume you know."
"Now I want to show you exhibit (the number) that shows the skull of your daughter and the teeth that have been extracted and ask you if that refreshes you memory as to how many teeth you tore out of her mouth when she was in the basement." It's the point you want to reach to have the jurors see this man facing the remains of a young women he murdered. There is no way he can do it in any civilized manner. But whatever he does he'll show his vileness. If he refuses to look Brennan suggests, "you had no trouble murdering her but you now have trouble seeing the results of you handiwork." If he looks at it without batting an eye, the jurors will see the closest thing they have ever seen to pure evil.
Depending on how this plays out, Brennan has to get into the trite reasons for Deborah's murder. Right now she's causing some trouble in Triple O's, Brennan has to delve into the specifics of what she had done. He told about a bookie complaining Deborah stole eight hundred dollars from him. Try to have him use that as a main reason for killing her, because she was costing him money.
Wyshak will try to preempt most of this with his absurd objection "asked and answered." The judge will tell Brennan to rephrase the question. He'll ask just about the same question again.
Brennan should have the right to continue beating up Flemmi over Deborah's murder. Let's hope the judge does not cut him short. Then he can continue the rest of his cross-examination.
I’m sort of amazed at this morning’s testimony. Benji Ditchman (Stephen Flemmi) seems not to be on his game. He named Steven Davis as doing drugs and Steve who is in court jumps up and yells at him. After a moment or two he is calmed down and judge tells him to keep control or he’s out. Benji said it wasn’t Steve but it was Mickey. Wyshak then has to struggle going back over his assets with him that the government let him keep because judge is going to let Brennan cross-examine him on the assets despite Wyshak's grumbling about not getting his way.
Benji identified Pat Nee as the person with Bulger who murdered Brian Halloran and Michael Donohue. He said Weeks, Bulger and Nee gunned him down. He said that a meeting at the beach after that Nee complained that his gun jammed. This gives lie to Weeks saying that he never knew who was with Whitey because he wore a mask. Benji also puts Pat Nee at the murders of Bucky Barrett, John McIntyre, and Deborah Hussey. What is it that Pat Nee has on everyone that he has never been charged with any of these?
Wyshak then goes on to show that Whitey is giving Connolly wrong information. It seems to me one isn’t an informant if he’s misleading the FBI to protect himself.
Benji started off by saying that they were trying to trick Connolly into filing false reports on the Halloran murder that would get the heat off them. If Connolly was in league with them why are they trying to trick him? Wyshak took a while to have Benji suggest that Connolly knew they were filing fake reports of the murder.
Benji has a lot of trouble remembering what he said about the meeting with Murderman in New York. Wyshak has to ask questions ten different ways to get answers he wants. Benji will continue to mess things up as he goes along. For instance Wyshak asks him who was strangled when McIntyre was taken down in the basement and he says: “Davis, Hussey and McIntyre.” Wyshak has to ask it again before getting it back to McIntyre.
As expected it was Bulger’s idea to murder his step daughter Deborah Hussey and Benji, as usual, “reluctantly” agrees. It’s a little unclear why she was murdered if you listen to his testimony. She used drugs and hung around the Combat Zone. She was coming into Triple O’s and causing some type of trouble saying who she was. He admitted having sex with his daughter but said it wasn’t intercourse.
Everything he does like extort Michael Solimando it is because Whitey insisted on it.
It was interesting when he talked about the situation involving Stippo Rakes. He said he met with him once and he wanted to sell the liquor store for 67,000; then he said that was the only time he met with him; asked what Whitey told him about the second meeting (he was supposed to talk about the extortion and putting the gun on the table in front of the kids) all he said was that Whitey had second meeting and Stippo agreed to sell.
He also got into the absurd, in my opinion, story of calling retired FBI Agent Paul Rico and asking if he could come down and meet with him. This is after the Wheeler, Halloran and Callahan murders. Now the way I see it, if Rico had anything to do with them the last thing he’d be doing was meeting with a guy who was suspected of doing them. Benji did testify that he was a suspect in the murders. And if he did, where do you think he would meet with him? Some back alley some where? No, Rico decides to meet with him at his place of business, World Jai Alai. And not only that, Benji brings along Murderman Martorano a guy who is on the lam. Paul Rico would have to be the dumbest retired law enforcement officer in the world meeting openly with two guys, both OC and one on the lam, at his place of business.
As if that story is not beyond belief, the purpose of the meeting makes it more so. Benji says Joe McDonald, who murdered both Wheeler and Callahan, wanted to know from Rico if the World Jai Alai deal was still going through. He murdered Wheeler the owner and Callahan the buyer and he’s supposedly wondering that? Who did he think the buyer and seller were going to be? Not only did he want that answer, he wanted Rico to tell Murderman it directly.
There’s more fantastic stories by Flemmi who acts like he’s some poor stray dog staggering through life following the evil dictates of his master, Whitey.
Wyshak spends a lot of time going over the illicit financial transactions involved in buying and owning the liquor store and the land it was on. He spent time showing there was a lot of money laundering. He manages to take all the umph out of a case with his tedious examination of things that really have little relevance. I sometimes thinks Wyshak is so mired down in the minutia of the case he can’t see the big picture. Well back to the show. Hopefully the cross will be good.
Wyshak used the remaining part of the morning, about an hour and fifteen minutes to see how well he could bore us. He had Benji (Flemmi) going through pictures of the guns and identifying them, he told about the transactions that he had surrounding the liquor store, and he went through reports filed by FBI Agent John Connolly in his informant files to have Benji say he gave Whitey that information and Whitey gave it to Connolly. Some of the information was in ’88 or ’89 after Frankie Salemme got out of Walpole prison and was trying to reestablish himself in the Mafia by going down to visit John Gotti. Benji said he was the only one who knew that because he was close to Frankie. Here we go again with Wyshak’s obsession with proving Whitey is an informant. This is an issue Wyshak will have spent 20 to 25% percent of the case on, falling into Carney and Brennan’s (C&B) trap, and the jury won’t spend 1% of its time discussing it.
He then went into the Baharian issue. Benji said Baharian is part of the Roxbury group. I mentioned early on that none of the people writing about these matters seemed to have known there was the Roxbury group. I will digress for a second because this morning another matter the so-called experts were wrong about was that Whitey became an informant and brought Benji along. You may recall that’s what Benji testified to also. But C&B have reports showing, as I maintained all along, that Benji was brought back by the FBI in May 1974 to be an informant. He was there long before Whitey came around.
During the testimony relating to Baharian where Morris tipped off a wiretap on Baharian, to show how much Benji has been prepped, he said that John Morris said to him he did not want “another Halloran.” Morris testified he said that to Connolly and not to Benji. Obviously Morris never would have said it to Benji since it would be accusing him of murdering Halloran which he’d never do to his face.
Another interesting bit of evidence came about when Wyshak was asking Benji about the December 1994 time period. He said Weeks told him that he got information from Connolly that it was best to leave because indictments were coming down. When asked where Whitey was, Benji said he was on vacation somewhere. This contradicts the whole government case against Connolly which was based upon him telling Whitey also to flee. He also contradicted the testimony of Salemme who said his wife’s called him from their house to tell him Benji was there. Benji said it was a chance meeting.
Over all Benji was shaky today but still presented himself as the lackey of Whitey who did everything Whitey asked him to do. The truth is Benji was the big gangster before Whitey came along and he was no shrinking violet when it came to their relationship. It’s just that he lucked out because Whitey was the ultimate target of Wyshak (as was Billy Bulger but what is amazing is throughout these cases Wyshak has been unable to get a scintilla of believable evidence that Billy did anything wrong despite the wonderful gifts he would have given anyone who could aid him in his quest.) So Benji could run under Wyshak’s to join the other criminals cuddling there.
Wyshak finally sat down and Brennan got up. He started asking him about his relationship with Deborah Hussey, the two-year old girl who called him Daddy but who he says wasn’t his daughter.
“Did you ever tell her not to call you Daddy?”
No, he answered.
“As a young girl didn’t you sit her on your knee and read books to her?”
No, he replied.
“Didn’t you say that you did that on a prior occasion?”
"That was a general question my answer didn’t count back then."
“Was it your job as her father to protect her?”
He replied, “I did protect her,” telling a story how he rescued her from someone at some time or another. “See, I did protect her. No one ever hurt her.”
Brennan replied, “Except you, Mr. Flemmi, when you strangled her.”
“Except you, Mr. Flemmi when you sexually abused her.”
“It was consensual.”
“You were her father!”
“It only happened twice and it was not intercourse.”
“You were her father, Mr. Flemmi.”
“It was a moment of weakness.”
“You were her father.”
Brennan came at him with one gun in each hand blazing away. He’d emptied his clips and was reloading as Benji writhed on the stand.
Then it was over for the day.
It won’t be an easy night for Benji Ditchman.
Ditchman left off last Friday telling us that he is about the lowest form of life that existed on this earth. Whenever you get mad at the FBI or the cops in general think of what the alternative would be. They are not perfect but they are what protect us from guys like Benji and his ilk.
I'm told a man whose job it is to spend time with the worst of the worse recently spent some time in the presence of Benji. He described him as being "Pure Evil." That's not to say Whitey is much better.
But I ask you this, suppose you had a strictly criminal relationship with another person, or if you are not a criminal had a business relationship with another person, which relationship brought you what you most wanted in life. If you were like Whitey or Benji it would be a reputation for being capable, power, money and women.
Suppose also you loved someone. Keep in mind Benji testified he loved the woman, Debbie, but was not in love with her. He didn't have to tell us that. We know that he was never in love with anyone except himself. Remember, Pure Evil.
Suppose you to loved a woman, let's call her Debbie. And the person in your relationship calls you and tells you that you have to murder her. The reason given is that perhaps someday down the road Debbie might do something to disclose your criminal or business relationship which might cause it harm. It's all conjecture for she's never threatened to do this.
What would you do? Benji said he dutifully obeyed and had Debbie murdered. It is the most absurd of all situations. Is there anyone who would be so subservient to another as to lure the one he loved to her death because another told him to based on some future contingency that may not happen? Have you ever heard of it such a thing ever occurring before in the history of mankind? If not, why would our government present Benji to tell us such a farfetched tale?
Don’t you think if you are capable of conspiring to bring about the murder of your loved one at the hands of your partner, you are equally capable of snuffing out her life by yourself? It's worse than outrageous to suggest "I stood by and did nothing" while watching my partner strangle the woman I love and by doing that suggest that your partner is worse than you. Benji’s testimony is offensive with regard to this. The prosecutor should not have let him lie so blatantly just because he made a deal with him to save him the death penalty and put him in special prison conditions where the persons in custody are treated well.
There is no reason for Benji to have been afforded any leniency by the government. He is truly worse than any person presently confined in ADX, Florence, Colorado. Just before Benji got on the stand the Judge Denise Casper said to the prosecutor, "call your next witness." The prosecutor upstanded and said: "The United States calls Steven Flemmi." Then Pure Evil in the form of Benji Ditchman came in on behalf of all of us. How do you feel that this person is speaking on behalf of you. Just the thought of it makes me want to go and take a long shower and scrub well.
Today we will hear more from this man. He will tell us how he missed out on murdering Brian Halloran and Michael Donohue but succeeded in being involved in the murders of Arthur “Bucky” Barrett and John McIntyre at the murder house at 799 East Third Street, South Boston. Perhaps he will tell us how much he enjoyed extracting their teeth after he extracted their lives.
After that he will again tell us about murdering another woman, Deborah Hussey, his step-daughter. I wonder if he will tell us how his sadistic intrusion onto her as a young girl threw the young woman into a state of total confusion, as it would any young woman being repeatedly sexually abuse by the father in the home. Will he take the blame for her succumbing to a life of using illegal drugs, some of those drugs sold under his and Whitey’s auspices to consenting adults; how without any foundation seeking to survive she slid into stripping, then prostitution, and then into bringing customers to her mother’s home where Benji sometimes visited. Will he tell us how her mother seeking to find out how her daughter’s life fell into such disrepair learned it was Benji who took her daughter while a youth into his evil clutches and tore her innocence away. Don’t hold your breath.
We’ll hear another fairy tale. Whitey told him to bring Deborah to the murder house because he was afraid she found out about their involvement with the FBI’s John Connolly, so he dutifully obeyed the wishes of his partner. We’ve already heard how Fortnight Weeks, like the others who always seem to be stepping outside for a cigarette or going to the bathroom when the murder takes place and come back to suddenly discover the murder going on, heard the thump and saw Whitey strangling her on the floor. Benji will tell us he walked her into the house and Whitey leaped on her and did that. He’ll tell us again he did nothing. I wonder if he’ll tell us he loved his step daughter too.
There must be a level below which the government should be forbidden to sink in putting witnesses on the stand. One comes away from listening to Benji asking where has decency fled to.