By Daniel Lovering
BOSTON (Reuters) - A former FBI official whose first meeting with James "Whitey" Bulger came when he invited the reputed mob boss to his home for dinner could shed light on Thursday on the corrupt relationship the bureau developed with the gangster.
Defense attorney Henry Brennan began Thursday's proceedings, continuing his cross-examination of John Marra, a Justice Department agent who had probed the Boston FBI's relationship with Bulger.
Bulger's attorneys have spent much of the past two days attacking the reliability of the FBI's 700-page informant file on him, which they contend was fabricated by former FBI agent John Connolly to provide a cover for his frequent meetings with the gang boss.
Bulger became the feared leader of Boston's "Winter Hill" crime gang in the 1970s and 1980s due in part to the willing of the FBI's Boston office to turn a blind eye to his crimes at a time when the bureau's national priority was taking down the mafia.
Prosecutors contend that Bulger served as an FBI informant for well over a decade, providing tips on rival gangs. Bulger adamantly denies he provided any information to investigators, contending that he paid off officials, including an agent who is now imprisoned and his supervisor, John Morris, who is due to take the stand on Thursday.
The 83-year-old Bulger is on trial for 19 murders he committed or ordered in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as racketeering, extortion and drug-dealing. He could face life in prison, if convicted.
Connolly is currently serving a 40-year prison term after being convicted of murder and racketeering charges.
Bulger's story has fascinated Boston for decades, and inspired the 2006 Academy Award-winning Martin Scorsese film "The Departed," in which Jack Nicholson played a character loosely based on Bulger.
Bulger fled Boston after a 1994 tip from Connolly that authorities were preparing to arrest him. He evaded capture for 16 years, even though his name was prominent on the FBI's "Most Wanted" list of fugitives. Investigators caught up with him a little more than two years ago, living in an apartment near the beach in Santa Monica, California.
(Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)