Jon Leiberman is an investigative reporter for the Howard Stern Show on Sirius XM and host of “Leiberman Live at Five,” a weekly news radio show airing on Howard 101. He’s a crime contributor for CNN HLN and WildAboutTrial.com, crime blogger for the Huffington Post, former correspondent and producer of America’s Most Wanted, and author of, “Whitey on Trial: Secrets, Corruption, and the Search for Truth.”
James “Whitey” Bulger murdered 19 people, yet the government looked away when trying to investigate and prosecute him. The Justice Department cut deals with convicted murderers in order to secure testimony. Several of these men are now free on the streets of Boston. Bulger and his gang had willing accomplices in the FBI, public servants who not only looked the other way, but actually colluded in the crimes. Leiberman explains the government’s motives and how Bulger got away with so much and if similar collusion is happening in today’s government.
Leiberman then talks about his work for the Howard Stern Show. In 2004, he was fired by Sinclair Broadcast Group for publicly questioning the company’s decision to air “Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal,” a 40-minute film critical of Presidential candidate John Kerry’s role in the anti-war movement during the Vietnam War. Leiberman explains what happened.
To find out more about Jon Leiberman, visit www.jonleiberman.com.
Narrator: Welcome to the Holistic Survival Show with Jason Hartman. The economic storm brewing around the world is set to spill into all aspects of our lives. Are you prepared? Where are you going to turn for the critical life skills necessary for you to survive and prosper? The Holistic Survival Show is your family’s insurance for a better life. Jason will teach you to think independently, to understand threats and how to create the ultimate action plan. Sudden change or worst case scenario, you’ll be ready. Welcome to Holistic Survival, your key resource for protecting the people, places and profits you care about in uncertain times. Ladies and gentlemen, your host, Jason Hartman.
Jason Hartman: Welcome to the Holistic Survival Show. This is your host Jason Hartman, where we talk about protecting the people places and profits you care about in these uncertain times. We have a great interview for you today. And we will be back with that in less than 60 seconds on the Holistic Survival Show. And by the way, be sure to visit our website at HolisticSurvival.com. You can subscribe to our blog, which is totally free, has loads of great information, and there’s just a lot of good content for you on the site, so make sure you take advantage of that at HolisticSurvival.com. We’ll be right back.
Start of Interview with Jon Leiberman
Jason Hartman: It’s my pleasure to welcome Jon Leiberman to the show. He’s an investigative reporter for the Howard Stern Show on Sirius XM and host of “Lieberman Live at 5”, a weekly news radio show airing on Howard 101, crime contributor for CNN and HLN, and he’s got an interesting new book about Whitey Bulger. Jon, welcome, how are you?
Jon Leiberman: Hey, Jason, thanks for having me. Doing well, how are you doing?
Jason Hartman: Yeah, good. It’s great to have you on the show. You’re coming to us today from New York City, right?
Jon Leiberman: Indeed, New York City where there is snow and more bad weather.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, and you’re right in the Sirius XM offices now I believe, right?
Jon Leiberman: That’s right. We’re right in midtown Manhattan.
Jason Hartman: Or should I say studio? Maybe both.
Jon Leiberman: Both, a little bit of both. My office is in studio.
Jason Hartman: Good stuff. Well, tell us what you’re working on nowadays, Jon.
Jon Leiberman: Well, our new book, Whitey on Trial is kind of a labor of love. I was a national correspondent at America’s Most Wanted for 7 years. And while I was there with Fox, I went around the world with the FBI, Whitey Bulger Task Force, searching for whitey. Of course, it turns out he was hiding in plain sight in California the whole time. But regardless, I teamed up with a Boston attorney, Margaret McLean, to write this book which chronicles I would say a once in a lifetime type trial – 19 murders pinned on Whitey, convicted killers coming face to face in the courtroom, Whitey even writing us a letter for our book. So it’s really one of those cases that just doesn’t come along very often and we spell it out in our book Whitey on Trial.
Jason Hartman: What’s the government corruption angle, though?
Jon Leiberman: Well, look, the reality is that many in the department of justice knew exactly what Whitey Bulger was doing and they looked the other way. And by doing I mean brutal killings, amassing millions of dollars in the drug trade on the streets of South Boston and really ruling that entire area out of fear. And the reality is that some of the corruption came out in the trial but there are other hints of it that we still haven’t been able to get a full grasp of. And the reality is, yes, informants are incredibly important when you’re talking about law enforcement, when you’re talking about gathering intelligence on crime, both domestically and abroad. But the question is how far can you allow your informants to go? In this case, I would argue, and I think many would agree, that James “Whitey” Bulger was allowed to go too far.
Jason Hartman: And so what is the reason that the government acted this way? I guess you’ll have to speculate as to the reason because you don’t know for sure probably.
Jon Leiberman: No, I can tell you the reason. I mean, the reality was two-fold. One is that Whitey had at least one agent, John Connolly, in his pocket. They were childhood friends. And Connolly’s currently sitting in prison in connection with one of the murders in this case. And, in fact, in our book we have an exclusive interview with John Connolly from prison, the only one that he’d done in which he claims that he was simply the fall guy, the scapegoat, but that the corruption went much higher than him in the department of justice. So one reason, of course, that they said, is Whitey was friends with his agent.
Another reason is that the government was hungry to get inform9ation about the Italian mafia and they felt as if Whitey Bulger leading the Irish-American mafia in South Boston could help provide them with intel on the Italian mafia, which they wanted so badly because a lot of people’s careers hinged on bringing down the Italian mafia in the 70s, 80s, and early 90s. And so they would basically do anything to get that sort of information.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, unbelievable. Any thoughts on how we can end or attack this kind of dirty dealing that’s going on inside the government so there’s going to be real justice.
Jon Leiberman: That’s the deal or question. But I do think that in this day and age with 24 hour news cycles and a lot of different internet sites, I mean, I do think the watchdog function of the media hasn’t gone away and in fact in some ways it’s actually more than it’s ever been because now you have citizen journalists and a whole bunch of different people looking out. But one misconception about Whitey, too, was that he and his crew simply killed other mobsters. Well, the reality is they did not.
And we tell a story in the book of a woman named Diane Sussman who took the stand in Whitey’s trial and she describes how she was on a second or 3rd date with a guy named Louie. And she and Louie were in the car with a 3rd person. Next thing you know, the car is riddled with bullets. She is badly wounded, Louis (the guy she was on the 2nd or 3rd date with) was paralyzed, and the 3rd guy, Mr. Milano was murdered. And this was completely a case of mistaken identity. Bulger and his crew had the wrong people. And the story that we tell in the book is how over the next 30 years, Diane Sussman, who was in her early 20s then never missed a month going back to visit Louie, the guy that she was on the date with.
So, she would go on to get married and have children, have a family and a career, but she would always be tied to this man who she was wounded in the car with on her second or third date, and for me it shows kind of the power of the human spirit in the context of such a dark, dark event. And it really was an amazing story.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, that’s just incredible. Now, you do investigative stories for Howard Stern. That’s pretty interesting.
Jon Leiberman: I do. I do a little bit of everything. I do news for the Howard Stern Show as you touched on. And then of course I host my own show on Sirius that I called Leiberman Live which is every day. And then I’m a crime contributor for CNN’s HLN which is CNN’s sister network and then for a website called Wild About Trial as well. And I blog for the Huffington Post for their crime section. So my career has been based very much on covering crime and digging into and investigating criminals.
Jason Hartman: Who else have you investigated? What are some of the more interesting ones? You’re deep into the Whitey Bulger thing because you did a book on it, but there’s gotta be some other fascinating cases, right?
Jon Leiberman: Well, for 7 years at America’s Most Wanted, I mean, I was on the road 7 days a week chasing down fugitives. I’ve done cases of mass murder, of prison escapees, of rapists, of bank robbers. I’ve come face to face with probably upwards of 3 dozen convicted killers that I’ve interviewed in prison. And look, the one commonality is everybody has a justification. Everybody says they have a reason why they killed.
Jason Hartman: Don’t they just first say they’re not guilty? I mean, the prisons are full of innocent people I know.
Jon Leiberman: Yeah. Surprisingly, some of them say that they’re not guilty, but others say, yeah, I did it, and here’s why. And they always have a justification. It’s the sex offenders, actually, that always sort of have a rationale for why they did what they did. They perpetrated this rape because of X, Y and Z. And that’s really sickening. In some ways, in my career, I found that sex offenders are even more offensive in some cases than brutal killers.
Jason Hartman: Unbelievable.
Jon Leiberman: Yeah, because of the recitatives and the like.
Jason Hartman: Yeah. Give us some examples of these justifications. I mean, I can’t imagine you could justify any of this stuff, but what do they say?
Jon Leiberman: Look, domestic murders are the number 1 type of murder that we see in this country, murders by spouses or boyfriends or girlfriends. So, I’ve heard every excuse in the book. And it goes both ways, too, frankly. I mean, I’ve done cases of men killing women and women killing men and relationships are so volatile that I’ve heard every excuse in the book in that regard. And sex offenders truly think that in a lot of cases that their victims are asking for it, number 1, and number 2 that they just have an impulse that they can’t control. And they don’t see it in black and white terms like many of us do. They see a lot of grey in what is appropriate and inappropriate with children – that’s my experience.
Jason Hartman: What do we do with these guys? Do we double tap them? I’ve kind of wondered – what is the deal? You never hear much about it. What about chemical castration? Does that just not work that well?
Jon Leiberman: Well, you have so many civil libertarians who fight against that. I remember when I was a reporter in New Mexico, there was a big push for chemical castration but it kept getting defeated and defeated. The reality is that we’re stuck in a terrible situation because if it were up to me, I’d say for a sex offender you’d lock them up and throw away the key. The problem is that that’s not the reality and they get out of jail at some point.
So, then the question becomes how do you rehabilitate them or how do you try to rehabilitate them through treatment? I don’t personally think the treatment works. But if you believe like I do the treatment doesn’t work, then you also have to believe that simply they’re going to be incarcerated for a finite amount of time, then they’re gonna be released and do it again which is what I believe. So, it’s a struggle.
But I absolutely hate to see when sex offenders are released and they don’t register as sex offenders and they end up perpetrating again, and they do because they prey on young children.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, that’s just scary. It’s disgusting, obviously, but it just seems like these guys would just volunteer for this stuff. I don’t know why there’s a civil libertarian issue here. I’m sure the ACLU cries fowl about it and sometimes I agree with the ACLU but not always – probably mostly not. Would it be an issue of is it foolproof? Like, if they do chemical castration, could these guys be released? Gosh, if I were in that, spend your life in prison or be chemically castrated and be released after a shorter sentence, wouldn’t they all choose release? As long as it’s foolproof, you give them a choice. They don’t have to do it.
Jon Leiberman: But criminals don’t get a choice, that’s the thing.
Jason Hartman: Either or choice, it’s a Faustian choice. It’s, look, if you want to get out early, because we’ve got overcrowding and we’ve got a problem paying for all these prisons – it’s very expensive to incarcerate people, if you want to get out on the minimum side of your sentence of say 7 years or whatever, right, versus 20 years, I mean, that seems like an easy decision.
Jon Leiberman: Yeah, I’d be for them. Those who argue against it say that once you’ve done your time and you’re gonna be released, you’ve done your time and you deserve to kind of get a fresh slate. I don’t personally subscribe to that theory but that’s what those who support that do.
Jason Hartman: I’m just kind of wondering. It seems like there must be some logic. But yeah, I can imagine these guys are just incredibly manipulative. Any other really stunning excuses? That’s what I want to call them – not reasons – or justifications these guys have made for their crimes?
Jon Leiberman: I remember sitting down with a convicted sex offender who reoffended – he had a bunch of victims down in Texas – and I remember sitting across from him, reading the victim’s statement out loud to him, and I ended after reading off a laundry list of what this guy had done, I said “So, do you feel as if any of this is inappropriate” and he looked at me in the eye and said “It depends what your definition of inappropriate is”. And I had just listed off a laundry list of some of the grossest acts that one could perpetrate, particularly against a child. And so then to have his retort be it depends what you define as inappropriate, I mean, it gives you a good glimpse into the mind of a predator.
Jason Hartman: Right, sure does. But I just have to say, for the record, you go to Middle Eastern countries and I saw this disgusting video – I couldn’t believe it. It’s on YouTube and it was about some Middle Eastern country and all these men marrying these kids – they’re so young it’s unbelievable – 5 year olds. It’s just unbelievable. There’s no age of consent. There’s no protection whatsoever.
Jon Leiberman: I know.
Jason Hartman: I can’t believe that. So, you put that guy over there and he can just lawfully do anything he wants, right?
Jon Leiberman: That’s right. I remember when I was in America’s Most Wanted we did a case of a predator here who fled to India, to an area of India, where sex tourism is a huge trade. And it’s just as you just mentioned. It’s horrible. Look, our system is flawed but it’s still the best criminal justice system in the world in my opinion.
Jason Hartman: Yeah. Very interesting. Okay, so any other crimes just interesting stories? I don’t know why I’m curious about this, but maybe it’s a morbid curiosity. How do some of these guys get away? Whenever I hear about one of these. . .There was that show – I never got into it but I know a lot of people did – Prison Break. These modern prisons are so good compared to the old days.
Jon Leiberman: You can have all the sturdy measures in the world, all the technology in the world, and most escapes come down to two things, either faulty technology, meaning that alarms and doors weren’t working or something like that, or more likely help from the inside.
Jason Hartman: It’s a matter of corruption again.
Jon Leiberman: I did a case in Indiana where a woman named Sarah Pender escaped. She was a double murderer in for 100 years and she escaped. And how did she escape? She escaped by befriending a jail corrections officer, starting to sleep with him, and there you go. He actually helped her escape. She went on the run. She was on the run for 6 months before a tip into America’s Most Wanted caught her.
So, I mean, the reality is, again, and I’m not suggesting that every correctional facility shouldn’t do everything they can from a technological standpoint, but look, I mean I actually just talked to a geo guard the other day who told me that because of budget cuts they had nobody manning the towers inside the jail. So, in other words, it was just a dummy. It was a dummy up there. There were no armed guards looking out onto the facility – and that’s more and more common.
So many security cameras aren’t manned you would be surprised. So many security cameras aren’t manned, they don’t record video, they’re just there as a deterrent. But when push comes to shove, I’ve covered so many cases of kids who were snatched where, yeah, there’s security cameras either on the side of a building or somewhere on the street corner but either they were broken or they never rolled tape. So, unfortunately, nothing is foolproof.
Jason Hartman: Do you deal with white collar crime?
Jon Leiberman: I’ve covered everything, yeah. I mean, you look at the Bernie Madoffs of the world. Speaking of white collar crime and bilking people out of a lot of money, I did a case, again, when I was in America’s Most Wanted, of a guy who preyed on the disabled and actually was a financial guy but ended up bilking disabled people out of millions of dollars and then going on the run. He actually has not been caught to my knowledge. So, look, bad guys come in all shapes, sizes, colors, religions. They just do.
Jason Hartman: What do you think about prison overcrowding? We were talking about these guys getting out of prison and then the budget cuts. On one hand I want to say let’s be tough on crime, but on the other hand, I think prisons have just become a business in this country. I mean, we’ve got the highest incarceration rate of any industrialized country, I know that, maybe the highest incarceration rate in world – I’m not sure. But this is just crazy. Like Alex Jones has that website Prison Planet. I’m thinking that’s really what this country has become?
Jon Leiberman: And part of that is true. And the reality is the private companies own a lot of our jails, a lot of our prisons now, and they are for profit companies. However, the decision was made to hand many of our inmates over to these companies because they can do it more cost effectively than the government can do it. So, I don’t know necessarily whether it’s a private or a public facility. But more so, yeah, I think we lock up many minor drug offenders who shouldn’t be in jail, shouldn’t be in detention centers. I mean, prison should be reserved, in my opinion, for kind of the worst of the worst, anybody with a gun crime, a sex crime, those sorts of crimes, victim crimes, not victimless crimes.
Jason Hartman: Right, exactly. So, I gotta ask you then, because we talked a lot about the sex offender crimes, you probably think that at least maybe marijuana should be legalized I would guess.
Jon Leiberman: Well, look, I think that the war on drugs has been a tremendous failure. I think most people can agree on that.
Jason Hartman: I agree by the way.
Jon Leiberman: That being said, I’ve been down to our borders many times. Most of our borders, people think that there’s some big wall separating our countries. And the reality is that most of our border, especially the ones that I come to think of first hand – New Mexico, Arizona, those are the borders I’ve been to with Mexico firsthand – you just walk across. So, I think that it’s awfully difficult to stop the flow of drugs into our country.
Jason Hartman: But you know how to stop them? Make it legal, then there’s no business for them.
Jon Leiberman: Well, that’s right. Unfortunately, if you legalize it, if you are then accepting that, you’re essentially accepting that it’s gonna be here and we have to find a way to regulate it. The government hasn’t been all that effective in regulating most industries, so I’m not quite sure that they could regulate the drug industry, but certainly is it time to try something new? Maybe it is.
Jason Hartman: Well, I don’t know what happened and I’m gonna be interested to see in a year, a couple of years, the stories of Colorado and Washington state who have legalized marijuana. Because my assumption, although I do not even know this, is it must be a lot less expensive to just go into one of these stores and buy it where it’s legal, right? I assume they take the money out of it. When it becomes unprofitable, then all of the black market goes away. All of the drug trafficking goes away because it’s not profitable. So, it’s not an issue really of the government regulating it so much as just plain and simple free market economics. It gets cheap because it’s legal.
Jon Leiberman: Right. And it certainly will be interesting to see what happens in Colorado and Washington state for sure as kind of the guinea pigs for this project.
Jason Hartman: Right. I want to circle back to a couple other things that you’re working on, but I just wanted to ask you, on that note where we’ve got these private prisons, where we’ve got stories we hear now and then they’re not super common but of the prison, the prisons have lobbies that are lobbying to make everything in America illegal, and the lobbyists go and they go under the guise of “Let’s be tough on crime! Let’s lower the drunk driving standard even more!” because it becomes this business, it becomes lucrative.
And so then you look at the whole issue, and I’ve kind of wondered about it lately, of prostitution. I mean, I did a show on sex trafficking – talk about disgusting. I mean, the human trafficking, that’s far worse than some predator who has a couple of victims. This is a business, a global business, right? It makes me think if you want to solve it, make it unprofitable for these scumbags. Just destroy their business. I mean, I doubt there’s any human trafficking going on in Amsterdam, for example, right? Because it’s legal.
Jon Leiberman: It’s an interesting way to look at it. Human trafficking, look, it happened during the Super Bowl. And frankly, a lot of people dismiss it because they say, well, these are at risk youth anyway. Well, I don’t subscribe to that theory. I think everybody is equal. And whether you’re an at risk youth from a poor family or you’re a rich kid in a great private school, everybody should be treated equally.
Jason Hartman: I didn’t catch this part of the story – that people actually tried to justify that it was okay because the victims were at risk youths? Are you kidding?
Jon Leiberman: That’s why it doesn’t get as much media attention as other crimes because whether you call it sex trafficking or you call it forced prostitution, it’s all about how you frame it, but that’s certainly why it doesn’t get the kind of media attention that it should in my opinion.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, very interesting. Well, in the Whitey Bulger case, just to kind of circle back to that for a moment, what happened to the FBI agents?
Jon Leiberman: Well, John Connelly is serving a prison sentence. He’s appealing and this is a case where a lot of people got deals, a lot of people got sweetheart deals to testify with the irony being that none of them ever thought that they would have to come face to face with Whitey Bulger in a court of law because nobody in that courtroom ever thought he was gonna be caught.
So, one of the most fascinating dynamics of the case was watching these old time killers stare down each other. They hadn’t seen each other for many times 20-25 years. These are men now in their late 70s and their 80s and to watch that dynamic was quite fascinating. And to watch, there were profanity laced tirades in court between witnesses – it was fascinating.
Jason Hartman: Wow, I bet it was. Don’t these guys at that age kind of just lose their mojo a little bit?
Jon Leiberman: No, because you have pride. It’s all about pride and image and legacy. And everybody in the Whitey Bulger case, including the FBI are worried about pride, their legacy, how they’ll be looked at in the future looking back on these 3 decades in Boston history.
Jason Hartman: Wow, that’s just an amazing case. John, tell people where they can find you and get the book.
Jon Leiberman: Yeah, well thanks so much, Jason. You can go to WhiteyOnTrial.com and you can see everything about the case and pick up our book and for any true crime lover out there, I think they’ll enjoy it because this was a federal case, so it wasn’t televised. So you can’t see all of the action. The next best thing is to read all the details and we sure have all the details, including behind the scenes interviews with the jurors and with the attorneys, with the witnesses, with the killers, a letter from Whitey Bulger himself to myself and my co-author. So, a lot of good stuff in there.
Jason Hartman: Fantastic, very interesting. And you also have your website, JonLeiberman.com as well, right?
Jon Leiberman: That’s right. I do. You can check that out for all of my other projects.
Jason Hartman: Fantastic. Well, Jon Leiberman, thank you so much for joining us today. Very interesting talking about some of these critical issues and we’ll hope that getting the word out there about this stuff moves the needle a little bit.
Jon Leiberman: I enjoyed it, Jason. Thanks so much.
Jason Hartman: Thank you.
Narrator: Thank you for joining us today for the Holistic Survival Show, protecting the people, places and profits you care about in uncertain times. Be sure to listen to our Creating Wealth Show which focuses on exploiting the financial and wealth creation opportunities in today’s economy. Learn more at www.JasonHartman.com or search “Jason Hartman” on iTunes. This show is produced by The Hartman Media Company, offering very general guidelines and information. Opinions of guests are their own and none of the content should be considered individual advice. If you require personalized advice, please consult an appropriate professional. Information deemed reliable, but not guaranteed.
Transcribed by Ralph
Guest: Jon Leiberman
iTunes: Stream Episode