James ‘Whitey” Bulger, the former head of the notorious Winter Hill Gang, was found dead on Tuesday at the Hazelton Penitentiary in Bruceton Mills, WV. Bulger had just arrived there on Monday from the Federal Transfer Center in Oklahoma City, OK – which is the same place where Keith Alan Raniere was housed before he was transferred to the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn, NY. Bulger also spent time at MDC.
Although the Bureau of Prisons has not released the cause of Bulger’s death, multiple news outlets are reporting that he was beaten to death by two other inmates with Mafia ties. The FBI is reportedly investigating his death.
[UPDATE (10-31-2018): The New York Post is reporting today that Whitey was “slocked” to death by at least one other inmate. In prison jargon, a “slock” is a tube sock with a padlock dropped into the toe area. The device is swung around to build up greater force – and then delivered as a blow to the victim, often to the head area.]
At the same time he was running the Winter Hill Gang, Bulger was also serving as a confidential informant for the FBI’s office in Boston, MA. In fact, it was an FBI agent who tipped off Bulger that he was about to be indicted in 1995 – which caused him to flee from Boston and go into hiding.
Bulger was eventually located – along with his long-time companion, Catherine Greig – in Santa Monica, CA in 2011. At the time of his arrest, Bulger had $822,198 in cash hidden throughout his apartment.
In 2013, Bulger was convicted of participating in 11 murders. He was serving two life sentences at the time of his death.
Approximately 7,000 prisoners die every year while in custody. And while federal prisons have traditionally had lower death rates than state and county prisons, the reality is that even federal prisoners have much higher mortality rates than their non-incarcerated counterparts.
Approximately 90% of prisoner deaths are the result of illness-related issues (Prisons are notorious for not diagnosing and/or misdiagnosing prisoner illnesses). In this regard, heart-disease (26%) and cancer (23%) generally account for almost half of those illness-related deaths.
Most of the non-illness-related prisoner deaths are attributable to suicide and homicide.
So, how about Vanguard – is he likely to die in prison?
Obviously, the most important factor in answering that question will be how long a sentence he gets. Right now, he’s facing 20 years to life if he’s convicted on the charges that have already been brought against him. And there will almost certainly be more charges.
The next most important factor is Vanguard’s age – and here the news gets rather grim for the Vanguard and his followers. Although prison inmates age 55 or older accounted for only 5% of the prison population for the most recent 9-year period for which data is available, they accounted for 41% of prison deaths during that same time period.
Another important factor is Vanguard’s general health and nutrition – and here the news is somewhat mixed. Although he’s apparently dropped a few pounds since he arrived at MDC, Vanguard gets little, if any, exercise there – and is steadily fed a diet that is high in carbohydrates and low in protein. Regardless of where he eventually serves his time, Vanguard will not be in a healthy environment.
Whether Vanguard will, as some have suggested, commit suicide in prison will ultimately be determined by his mental toughness. Unfortunately for Vanguard, his own attorney, Marc Agnifilo, has described him as a “soft man” – and he’s already been observed openly weeping in his cell at MDC. What happens when the gavel falls – and the judge metes out his ultimate punishment?
Finally, there is the question of whether Vanguard could be the victim of a jailhouse homicide. In large part, that will somewhat depend on where he serves his time – and whether he’s ever placed in “General Population” (Up until now, he’s been isolated with other sexual perverts).
Pedophiles are usually considered to be the bottom rung of the prisoner hierarchy – with rapists on the rung above them. That does not bode well for Vanguard who, of course, is both.
If a guy with Whitey Bulger’s background and connections can get offed in prison, then clearly someone like Raniere will definitely be “at risk” to say the least. And given Raniere’s well-documented history of lying about his abilities and achievements — and bragging that he’s the smartest man in the world – the odds go up markedly.
Viva Executive Success!