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Bulger, witness in shouting match at trial

BOSTON -- James "Whitey" Bulger and his once-loyal criminal apprentice had an angry, profanity-laced exchange in court yesterday during Bulger's racketeering trial after the former aide called Bulger and his partner "the two biggest rats."

Tensions exploded as Kevin Weeks was questioned by Bulger's lawyer about a plea deal with prosecutors that resulted in Weeks serving five years in prison after pleading guilty to aiding and abetting Bulger in five murders.

Weeks bristled at attorney J.W. Carney Jr.'s suggestion that he had beaten the system and that he wasn't bothered by his participation in five killings.

"Because we killed people that were rats, and I had the two biggest rats right next to me," Weeks snapped.

Bulger, seated at the defense table, hissed some profane advice at Weeks. Weeks' eyes popped open. His face reddened and he tossed back the same insult, only louder and through the microphone attached to the witness stand.

"What are you going to do about it?" Weeks demanded.

Judge Denise Casper moved to restore order. "Hey!" she said. "Mr. Bulger, let your attorneys speak for you. Mr. Weeks, here's how this works: You answer the questions, OK?"

Weeks was referring to the prosecution's claim that Bulger and his longtime cohort, Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, were FBI informants on the rival New England Mafia while they were both committing a litany of crimes.

Weeks, 57, said he decided to cooperate with prosecutors after learning that Bulger and Flemmi were informants.

The outburst came on the second day of Weeks' testimony against Bulger. Earlier in the day, he offered gruesome details about three murders he said he saw Bulger commit.

Bulger, 83, is accused of playing a role in 19 killings during the 1970s and '80s while he allegedly led the Winter Hill Gang. He has pleaded not guilty and insists he was never an FBI informant. His lawyers have focused their energy on rebutting the informant claim.

The Hartford Courant contributed to this story.

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