Man Charged as Lookout in Whitey Bulger Killing Admits to Lying to FBI - The World News

Man Charged as Lookout in Whitey Bulger Killing Admits to Lying to FBI

One of three inmates charged in the death of James (Whitey) Bulger, the Boston underworld figure who was fatally bludgeoned within hours of his being transferred to a prison in West Virginia, pleaded guilty on Monday to a charge of lying to federal agents.

The defendant, Sean McKinnon, 38, escaped additional prison time after prosecutors dropped a more serious murder conspiracy charge.

He was initially charged with serving as a lookout, while two other inmates at the Hazelton federal prison, Fotios (Freddy) Geas and Paul DeCologero, rained a series of savage blows on Mr. Bulger’s head. They have also been charged in the case. The attack occurred less than 12 hours after Mr. Bulger, 89, was transferred to the correction facility in Bruceton Mills, W.Va.

Sean McKinnon pleaded guilty on Monday to a charge of lying to federal agents, but he escaped additional prison time.Credit…Marion County Sheriff’s Office/Handout, via Via Reuters

Under his plea agreement, Mr. McKinnon faced up to five years in prison on the lying charge as well as a fine of $250,000. But he was credited with the almost two years he spent in prison after his indictment in the case, and U.S. District Judge Thomas Kleeh allowed him to leave the courtroom on Monday without an additional sentence.

At the time of Mr. Bulger’s slaying, Mr. McKinnon was serving an eight-year sentence for stealing a dozen firearms and trading them for heroin and cocaine. He was released in the summer of 2022 but was rearrested shortly afterward on the new charges stemming from Mr. Bulger’s death.

Mr. Geas and Mr. DeCologero also reached plea agreements with the government last month, but only the details of Mr. McKinnon’s arrangement have been made public so far since he is the first of the group to be sentenced. Mr. DeCologero was scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 1 and Mr. Geas on Sept. 6.

Mr. Bulger, in failing health and reliant on a wheelchair, was found beaten to death in his cell on the morning of Oct. 30, 2018, shortly after being transferred from a Florida prison where he had been serving two consecutive life sentences for his role in 11 murders.

Questions have long been raised about why Mr. Bulger, a fugitive from justice for 16 years until his capture in Santa Monica, Calif., in 2011, was placed in the general inmate population at Hazelton, which housed inmates linked to organized crime. Prosecutors have never officially offered a motive for his killing, but it was widely known by then that Mr. Bulger was a federal informant who for years had provided information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Four years after his death, the Justice Department’s inspector general concluded that a remarkable series of preventable administrative mistakes, incompetence and health system failures within the federal prison system itself had led to his death.

The inspector general found that prison officials had not put into place any extra security measures to protect Mr. Bulger, even though he was someone who would likely be targeted. The report also found that these officials allowed word of Mr. Bulger’s arrival at Hazelton to get around to a large number of bureau employees and, ultimately, to inmates.

Mr. McKinnon had previously publicly insisted that he had nothing to do with Mr. Bulger’s murder. But in his plea agreement, he admitted to making false statements to F.B.I. agents on the day of Mr. Bulger’s death in 2018, when he told them that he was not aware of what had happened to Mr. Bulger. He acknowledged during his interview at the time that he had spoken with Mr. Geas and Mr. DeCologero that morning but not about Mr. Bulger.

In fact, according to the court document, Mr. McKinnon knew that Mr. Geas and Mr. DeCologero had carried out the fatal assault; Mr. McKinnon had met with and discussed the attack with the two other inmates, it said.

A lawyer for Mr. McKinnon did not return a call and an email seeking comment. A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment on any of the cases.

Mr. Geas is currently serving a life sentence for the 2003 killing of the leader of the Genovese crime family in Springfield, Mass. In 2022, a grand jury investigating the Bulger murder indicted Mr. Geas on charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and first-degree murder by a federal prisoner serving a life sentence.

Mr. DeCologero has been serving a 25-year sentence for running a violent gang in the Boston area and, before the new charges were brought, had been eligible for release in 2026. In the Bulger killing, he was charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and assault resulting in serious bodily injury.

Kitty Bennett contributed research.

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