In a trial that has been packed with jarring, disturbing twists, today’s proceedings in the trial of James "Whitey" Bulger stood our for their raw emotion and sordid detail as Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, Bulger’s former partner in crime, took the stand for the third day.
The proceedings started with outburst from Steven Davis, the brother of Debra Davis, who Flemmi dated and admits he helped kill. It ended with a stomach-churning account of Flemmi’s sexual relationship with his stepdaughter, Deborah Hussey, whom he also helped murder.
Flemmi had only taken the stand for a few minutes when he described Steven Davis as a drug addict and informant.
Davis exploded, calling Flemmi a “F--king liar.”
Later, Davis said he’d “blacked out” during the episode and owed Judge Denise Casper an apology, but added that he simply couldn’t stand being called a rat. Flemmi clearly got that message: he apologized after Davis’s outburst, and explained that he’d confused Davis with his brother, Mickey Davis.
[For what it’s worth, that last detail may help explain the full extent of Steven Davis’s ire. Last week, describing Debra Davis’s murder, Flemmi said she’d been killed after telling an unnamed brother that Flemmi and Bulger were FBI informants. That detail somehow found its way from the brother to John Connolly,* the ex-FBI agent who enabled Bulger and Flemmi for years. Callahan then shared it with Bulger -- who decided Debra Davis had to die. In other words, Flemmi may have misidentified Steven Davis as same brother whose loose lips allegedly got his sister killed.]
Just before court adjourned for the day, the proceedings turned even more wrenching. Defense attorney Hank Brennan began his cross-examination of Flemmi with a scant 15 minutes left in the day and honed in on Flemmi’s relationship with his stepdaughter, Deborah Hussey, who Flemmi admits helping murder.
“Is it hard to accept that you strangled somebody who sat on your knee as a little girl?” Brennan asked.
“Did she call you daddy?”
“She probably did,” Flemmi acknowledged.
That was bad enough. But Brennan also highlighted clear contradictions between the description of Hussey’s early years that Flemmi gave today and the sworn account he gave several years ago, in which he cast himself as a more doting paternal presence.
Flemmi, attempting to explain the disparities, said that -- in his previous testimony -- he'd simply said “Yes, yes, yes” to a series of questions he found boring. For Brennan, of course, this was pure gold -- and he promptly asked Flemmi whether he’d used that same approach in the current trial. As he tried to explain himself, Flemmi grew more and more befuddled -- and in the end, he seemed not to know which account was true and which was false.
The grisliest part of Brennan’s cross came when Flemmi copped to engaging in unspecified sexual acts with Hussey on two occasions.
“I didn’t inflict any abuse on her,” he protested. “That was consensual.”
Those acts, Flemmi said, occurred in a “moment of weakness” - adding that Bulger and others had such moments with her as well. The portrait that emerged was of a young woman who was raised lovingly by Flemmi as a young child, then turned into a communal sex object by him after she got into drugs and began running with a dubious crowd.
Most troubling of all: that evolution made sense to Flemmi then, and still does today.
Read more about Flemmi's testimony from last week here.
*Correction: this story originally identified John Connolly as John Callahan.
Steven Davis appeared on Greater Boston to explain his outburst in court and remember Stephen Rakes, another alleged victim who was found dead last week: