Mobster 'Rifleman' Flemmi takes stand in Boston

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BOSTON (AP) - New England mobster Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi described his long tenure as an FBI informant during testimony Thursday in lawsuits by mob victims' families who say the agency failed to control Flemmi and fugitive gangster James "Whitey" Bulger.

Flemmi also calmly described why he and Bulger killed Flemmi's 26-year-old girlfriend, whose family is one of the plaintiffs.

Bulger, he said, resented the amount of time Flemmi was spending with Debra Davis and became angry when Flemmi shirked his responsibilities with their criminal syndicate so he could be with her.

"It kind of strained our relationship," Flemmi said.

After Bulger learned that Flemmi had told Davis that they were both working as FBI informants, Bulger "wanted to kill her," Flemmi said.

"He wanted me to bring her down and set her up so he could kill her," Flemmi said.

The trial ended for the day before Flemmi could testify about how Davis was killed. He is scheduled to continue his testimony Friday. He previously admitted luring Davis to a South Boston home in September 1981 and watching as Bulger strangled her. He has also admitted helping to bury her body.

The families of Davis, Deborah Hussey and Louis Litif say the FBI is responsible for their deaths because it protected Flemmi and Bulger and allowed them to avoid prosecution for their crimes. When the three were killed in the 1980s, Bulger and Flemmi ran the Winter Hill Gang and acted as top-echelon informants who provided the FBI with information on the Mafia.

Flemmi, who is serving a life sentence for his role in 10 murders, has admitted participating in the killings of Davis, whom he began dating when she was 17 and he was in his late 30s, and Hussey, who was the daughter of his common-law wife. No one has been charged with killing Litif, a bookmaker who was also an FBI informant.

The Justice Department claims the FBI did not know Bulger and Flemmi planned the killings and cannot be held liable in their deaths.

During testimony Thursday, Flemmi, now 75, said he first began giving the FBI information during a gang war in the 1960s.

At the time, Flemmi said, he was a real estate broker who was involved in illegal gambling and loan-sharking. He said the FBI also gave him information about his enemies.

Flemmi bristled at the term "informant," instead labeling his relationship with the FBI "a quid pro quo situation."

"It was an exchange of information," he said.

Michael Heineman, an attorney for the Davis family, walked Flemmi through his long relationship with the FBI, while at the same time asking him about his involvement in at least six murders during the 1960s and 1970s while he was an FBI informant.

Flemmi repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when asked about the killings, which were not among the 10 murders he admitted to as part of a plea agreement he reached with prosecutors.

Flemmi testified that FBI agent H. Paul Rico warned him in 1970 when he was about to be indicted in one murder and another attempted murder. He said he fled Boston and stayed away for four years, until Rico told him it was safe to return. The charges against him were dropped.

"All the FBI agents I met treated us equally. In fact, we were part of the organization, in a sense," Flemmi said.

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