By now I am sure that everyone knows James “Whitey” Bulger was convicted of the murder of Tulsa businessman Roger Wheeler as well as many others. Last Wednesday his son David Wheeler gave a victim’s impact statement during the sentencing hearing for Bulger. Every person in the courtroom learned what the Wheeler family went through and David’s statement was so powerful it left many shocked and upset.
After I talked with David inside the federal courthouse in Boston, he agreed to give me a copy of his statement.
As he says, this is not the end of the story …
Remarks to the Court
U.S. District Judge Denise Casper United States v. James Bulger: Sentencing
Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013
My name is David Wheeler. I am the son of Patricia Wheeler and the late Roger M. Wheeler, of Tulsa OK.
Here’s my father, right here: [Show enlarged photo to the entire courtroom].
My mother, I am pleased to say, is still alive; my father, Roger Wheeler, is long dead. He was murdered in cold blood, sitting in his automobile after a round of golf, more than a thousand miles from this courtroom. He was fifty four years old.
He was murdered on the orders of this man [point] James Bulger.
My sister, Pamela Norberg Wheeler, appeared in this Court last summer, to give testimony on behalf of the prosecution. My brothers, Roger Jr. and Larry, and I survive another brother, Mark. My wife, Laurie is in the next courtroom over. I cannot begin to describe how much I owe Laurie, for her love and support through this. Our son, Steven, is here also, with his wife, Meg, and his cousin — Roger, Jr.’s son — Clark.
Unable to join us today is Michael Huff, recently retired Tulsa Police Department Homicide Detective; Mike was the first detective to arrive at Tulsa’s Southern Hills Country Club, on a Wednesday afternoon, back in May, 1981. Mike’s dogged determination to find the truth over the years, has earned him my everlasting thanks and respect. What Mike saw there, in the parking lot next to the swimming pool, was unimaginable; horrifying, to everybody but this [point] man;
This man wanted my father dead.
What has been uncovered in the years since, about the utterly corrupt, insular world that was the Boston Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is — if possible — even more horrifying, more grotesque, particularly to those of us, such as my family and I, who once trusted federal law enforcement.
My father joined the Navy during WW II and later met my mother, then a student nurse from Kansas, at an ROTC tea dance. The jukebox had broken down, and my mother asked him to fix it. A year later, they were married.
After the war, my father found work in the Venezuelan oil fields, where he learned that pipelines can be kept free of rust and leaks by attaching an anode of magnesium metal. The magnesium anode rusts instead of the pipe. My dad came back to America and started a business melting down magnesium leftovers from the war to make magnesium anodes for oil pipelines.
My father wasn’t much for watching television; the time spent with us kids was mainly reserved for the out of doors: Hiking, water skiing; fishing — one day we caught the same fish, on separate hooks! — and working together, outside. But there was one television program we wouldn’t miss; we’d watch it together: it was called — “The FBI.”
One time, Dad’s magnesium plant caught fire. I was eight years old. I went with him as he raced to save his business, our livelihood. The firemen had just arrived, and were unraveling their hoses. Dad reminded the chief that spraying water on a magnesium fire is just like throwing gasoline on a paper fire. It’s the last thing you want to do.
I watched from across the street as Dad and some of his workers raced through the gates and into the plant. I watched as Dad came up to two firemen preparing to start spraying a big hose; they refused to listen to his loud, urgent warnings. Dad stole their firehose. That was my Dad; he was my hero.
He had unlimited energy, and with some luck and lots of determination, he became an extraordinarily successful businessman.
My father’s fatal mistake proved to be his faith in the FBI. He invested millions to buy World Jai Alai, a fast moving, indoor sport imported from the Basque region of Spain. Like horse racing, it featured wagering. He purchased World Jai Alai because he thought it was a growing sport, and a smart investment, but mostly because a team of retired FBI agents, led by former agent H. Paul Rico, assured him that they would protect his business and “keep it clean.”
I was working at World Jai Alai, in Florida, at the time of Dad’s murder. I was beginning to learn firsthand that the business was anything but clean. On the frantic flight home to Tulsa that terrible day, I concluded that Rico had to be involved in the killing. But, with my strong belief in American justice, I was confident that we would quickly catch Rico and his criminal associates. Sadly, my faith in the American government was misplaced. Even today’s proceedings do not mark the end of my odyssey.
Thirty-two years have passed since John Martorano, the hit man for FBI informants — one of them seated right here — came up to my father, seated in his car, and without a word, shot him between the eyes.
This man then shot and killed Brian Halloran.
Martorano — again at the direction of this man — then shot John Callahan, the former president of WJA, all to silence them from telling about my father’s murder.
How many others were involved, in these and other FBI informant murders? Who else at the Bureau knew about these secret relationships with these vicious criminals, but turned away, said nothing, as others were murdered? Did any Supervisors or other agents care to ask any questions, connect the few, simple dots between these murders and their own informants?
How could the FBI pretend to investigate itself, give itself a clean bill of health and then just a year later bring criminal charges against John Connolly, Whitey Bulger and Steve Flemmi?
Where was the Justice Department in all of this? Was there no oversight at all?
My family and the families of many other victims of this [point] man were victimized by the FBI — in at least three ways:
In our case, the first was, of course, my father’s cold-blooded, pointblank murder.
The second was when the FBI repeatedly abused its unchecked powers over the decades that followed. It did this by routinely denying the existence of any special relationship with this [point] man or his partner, Mr. Flemmi; and by routinely lying to the public, to family survivors, and other law enforcement officers — such as Detective Huff — all to conceal its own gross institutional misconduct.
It used its powers to plant, destroy, and withhold evidence. It stood by, watching, did nothing as three men were murdered to keep my father’s murder from being solved.
The third time my family was victimized, came at the hands of our own Department of Justice: How misleading is that — Department of Justice.
This third came in the course of my family’s federal legal case against the FBI for its role in my father’s wrongful death. When my family turned to the federal courts to compel formal answers to serious questions of institutional corruption, the FBI, counseled by its lawyers from the Justice Department in Washington D.C. — NOT the prosecutors who tried the case before your Honor — did not and could not deny the facts;
Rather, the lawyers from Washington argued that we were at fault: That we were late in bringing any claims for the FBI’s role in my father’s murder.
Our lives had been shattered, devastated — and we were to blame!
The FBI and the Justice Department believed that they could have it both ways: They believed FIRST that they could avoid any legal responsibility to my family by resorting to the technical defense of statute of limitations; and SECOND, that they could keep the public from ever learning its role in the murder of my father, the CEO of a public company and an American citizen.
To claim the statute of limitations had expired, however, the FBI had to first confess responsibility; that’s the way a statute of limitations defense operates. If a party says it did nothing wrong, it stands to reason, the limitations clock can’t start ticking!
The government also believed that it could keep the public from learning about their admission of guilt, or responsibility by burying it deep in some legal brief, where only a judge would read it.
As it turns out, the government was only half correct: As for the FIRST part, the FBI did win —
It did avoid having to answer to my family and the American public, in open court;
The Court did accept the government’s claim that my family was at fault, for moving too slow, and dismissed our case:
So, the FBI won the FIRST round …. But they won’t win the SECOND:
Everyone within the sound of my voice should understand this — That the FBI — entrusted with the greatest law enforcement powers and authority in the nation — is responsible for my father’s murder: They are as responsible for that murder as this defendant sitting here before you.
And that’s not just my opinion; that’s coming from the FBI itself! …
Here’s how the Justice Department confessed responsibility, in a court filing:
And I quote —
“The record establishes that by this date — a reasonable person would have had sufficient facts to form a belief that the FBI bore some responsibility for both the death of Roger Wheeler and the subsequent cover-up. “
Sadly, until right now — this moment — almost nobody knew that the FBI had admitted responsibility for its role in my father’s murder and the agency-wide cover-up that followed.
This official acknowledgment of responsibility appears in no FBI or Justice Department press release or any government website. No government official ever conveyed this to me or any member of my family, in person or by letter, much less made apology for it.
We tried for years for an opportunity to uncover the facts, to establish this responsibility, to call the government formally to answer, to account in a public forum.
It arrogantly refused; it sought only to protect itself and the names and all important careers of its agents and officials.
When the time came to stand up and answer for the many horrific crimes of its own making — including my father’s murder — the FBI, through its lawyers in the so-called Justice Department, didn’t hesitate to hide behind this technical dodge.
It whispered its responsibility, to a federal judge, only so it wouldn’t have to answer to me, my family, and the American public.
Shame on you, Mr. Bulger, but for all your notoriety, you are a punk and don’t even matter anymore: you have turned from government-sponsored assassin into a bag of jailhouse rags waiting to be stored on cold steel. Enjoy your retirement.
Greater shame on all of those who helped you — whether FBI or private citizens — while you were on the run; those who tried to protect you from seeing this day.
Greatest shame of all on the FBI, and in particular, those agents and officials who violated their sacred oaths, who defrauded the special trust of the American people.
My family and I have nothing but contempt for you.