BOSTON – Former Boston crime boss James "Whitey" Bulger had some advice for three high school girls who wrote to him for a history project: Crime doesn't pay.
The 85-year-old sent the handwritten letter, dated Feb. 24, from federal prison in Florida where he is serving two life sentences, The Boston Globe reported Sunday.
"My life was wasted and spent foolishly, brought shame and suffering on my parents and siblings and will end soon," Bulger wrote.
He went on to write: "Advice is a cheap commodity some seek it from me about crime — I know only one thing for sure — If you want to make crime pay — 'Go to Law School.'"
Bulger, a former FBI informant whose case brought scrutiny to the agency, was convicted in 2013 on racketeering charges that included playing a role in 11 murders. He spent 16 years as one of the nation's most wanted fugitives before he was captured in California in 2011. His lawyers are appealing his conviction before the federal appeals court in Boston next month.
Three 17-year-old students at Apponequet Regional High School in Lakeville chose him for their National History Day competition entry on leadership and legacy.
One of the students, Brittany Tainsh, said she was stunned to get his letter.
"It wasn't what we were expecting at all," she told the newspaper. "He did not really reply to any of our actual questions. He was very apologetic."
She and classmates Michaela Arguin and Mollykate Rodenbush said they chose Bulger for their project to try to stand out among the other entries and to learn about someone they hadn't studied in school. They posted the letter on a website they created about Bulger's life.
Bulger complained in the letter that he is "a myth created by the media" in part to hurt his brother William, a former president of the state Senate and of the University of Massachusetts. He said his brother is "A Better Man than I." Bulger said he himself dropped out of school in ninth grade and "took the wrong road."
Patricia Donahue, whose husband was shot to death by Bulger in 1982, told the Globe the letter doesn't express remorse for his victims.
"I don't think he's changed at all," she said.
Bulger's lawyer declined to comment.
The students' project took first place in the district but didn't place in the state competition, though it won two special awards. Robert Powers, the social studies teacher supervising the project, said the girls took a creative risk that succeeded even if they didn't win.
"They have contributed to our historical understanding of Whitey Bulger, and to me, that's what this program is all about," he said.