Crime and Justice

Judge orders former Montpelier man held pending trial in Whitey Bulger slaying

Sean McKinnon. Photo courtesy of Marion County (Florida) Sheriff's Office

A former Montpelier man who allegedly acted as a lookout when crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger was beaten to death in federal prison has been ordered held in custody and will be brought to West Virginia where the charges against him were filed. 

Sean McKinnon, 36, appeared Monday before Magistrate Judge Philip R. Lammens in federal court in Florida following his arrest last week in that state. According to court records, the judge cited McKinnon’s past criminal record and the strength of the case against him as among the reasons for ordering him detained.

Lammens also found “by clear and convincing evidence” that there “was no condition or combination of conditions of release will reasonably assure the safety of any other person and the community,” according to the court filings.

Also, according to court records, Lammens granted prosecutors’ motion to seal two exhibits introduced during Monday’s detention hearing. The exhibits, prosecutors wrote, are transcripts of telephone prison calls.

“Disclosing the contents of these exhibits could hinder the trial and pose a risk to McKinnon’s safety,” the judge wrote in his ruling.

McKinnon was indicted last week on a charge of conspiring with Fotios Geas, 55, and Paul J. DeCologero, 48, to murder Bulger while they were all incarcerated at United States Penitentiary Hazelton in West Virginia in October 2018.

According to the charging documents, Geas and DeCologero beat the 89-year-old Bulger in a cell as McKinnon acted as a “lookout.” 

McKinnon was also charged with making false statements to federal authorities about what he allegedly knew about Bulger’s death.

McKinnon was living in Ocala, Florida, at the time of his arrest, and was on federal supervised release, according to federal prosecutors. 

McKinnon was convicted of stealing a dozen firearms from R&L Archery in Barre and then trading the guns for heroin. He received an eight-year prison sentence in January 2016. The Jacksonville Journal-Courier reported Monday that McKinnon was moved into a halfway house in February and was released from that facility in July.  

Bulger was convicted in 2013 and sentenced to life in prison in 2013 for 11 murders and other offenses.

A federal public defender listed in court records as representing McKinnon did not return an email Monday seeking comment.

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