Bulger, 84, ran a South Boston crime syndicate for decades, allegedly bribing corrupt authorities to look the other way while he conducted his illicit business. He went on the lam in 1994 and kept a low profile until his arrest in California in 2011. He was tried in 2013 and convicted of money laundering, extortion, weapons offenses and racketeering -- a charge that encompassed his involvement in 11 murders. Exonerated in eight additional homicides, Bulger was sentenced to two life sentences and five years behind bars. Brennan, who represented him at his racketeering trial, is now working on his appeal.
Berlinger's film chronicles the 2013 trial and features on-camera interviews with law-enforcement officials, Bulger's defense team and the families of the people Bulger is accused of killing. Bulger can also be heard speaking to his lawyers in taped phone conversations from prison. The documentary dedicates time to both the government's insistence that Bulger worked for years as a criminal informant and Bulger's vehement denial of that assertion as he maintains he was promised immunity by lawmen he said he paid well to ignore his crimes.
Berlinger has said his intention in making the film was not to glorify Bulger nor campaign for his release from prison, but rather to present the points of view of as many people involved in the complicated case as possible. Brennan said he and Bulger agreed to take part in the film because they felt Berlinger would give them a fair chance to tell their side of the story. The attorney has also stated he is very happy with the finished product
Asked if Bulger has seen the documentary to which he contributed, Brennan told UPI in a recent phone interview: "I think he is eager to watch it and will, but it will be on CNN, at some point, I expect. But he doesn't have a resource where he could play a DVD or go to a showing. They're not going to let him leave the facility. He'll have to wait until everybody else sees it when it is on television. ...
"They are very strict about what I can provide him or give him and I can't give him movies or video footage unless it directly has to do with the trial, and now that the trial is over, the appeal," Brennan said. "They don't give me the privilege of sitting down and going through it with him. But I had spent a lot of time with him prior to his participation in the film and it was because I had such great trust in Joe and [producer] Caroline Suh that we decided and he ultimately decided this was something he would validate and participate in."
Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger is now playing in theaters in New York and Los Angeles, as well as through video-on-demand platforms.