The Right Message … At The Right Time … In The Right Way


‘Street Soldier’: Confessions of a Mobster

Published: Sunday, May 25, 2003


Eddie MacKenzie’s graphic account of his life as a violent street criminal in South Boston (he calls himself an urban street predator) is almost unspeakably brutal, coldblooded, ruthless, merciless, callous, cruel — and fascinating. Reading it is like happening upon a street crime and entering the perpetrator’s mind. It’s not pretty.

Because MacKenzie wrote ”Street Soldier” with a committee (his lawyer making sure he didn’t confess to any crime still within the statute of limitations, plus Phyllis Karas and Ross Muscato), his explanations have, at times, a near-clinical detachment mixed with a fair amount of rationalization and dubious justification. Otherwise, the account is without excuse, a hoods-will-be-hoods-so-let-me-tell-you-how-it-is account.

Clearly, Eddie delights in telling many of his appalling stories, like how as a young burglar learning the ropes he was always nervous, so he’d find the master bedroom, where he would deposit his nervousness between the sheets, remake the bed and imagine his upset victim(s) climbing in after the police had gone, only to find one last surprise. If you find that offensive, this is not a book for you, for that’s the kid stuff. Frankly, I found it impossible to understand a man who gets sexual pleasure out of breaking the bones of other men.

MacKenzie, a complex fellow, is trying to work all this out in his own head. His road to violence began with senseless beatings and sexual abuse as a child bounced from one loveless foster home to another. After being raped during a drunken stupor by an Army recruiting officer, he turned to his life of violent crime. By 31, he could — and does — boast of a criminal record nine pages long that included ”attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, mayhem, breaking and entering and rape,” although he claims the rape charges were bum raps. Now the father of five daughters, he does not think much of forcible rape, or of another of his prior favorites, statutory rape.

Only people who don’t watch ”60 Minutes,” don’t read the newspapers, seek to remain oblivious of the activities of the House Government Operations Committee, ignore the Most Wanted posters in their local post offices or live in a cave are unaware of the story of James J. Bulger, known as Whitey, once the underworld boss of Boston. Today, Whitey is found in the second row of the F.B.I.’s most wanted (only Osama bin Laden hangs above him) and a regular on ”Unsolved Mysteries” and ”America’s Most Wanted.” He is sought in connection with numerous murders and for a lifetime of racketeering.

It was Whitey’s corrupting of the F.B.I. in Boston that made him a national story. It seems he worked both sides, and as a valuable informant had the Boston office so under his control that he could send an innocent man to prison for a murder he committed, all with the F.B.I.’s knowledge. John Connolly, an agent in the Boston office, is doing 10 years in federal prison for tipping Whitey off that he was about to be indicted. Whitey disappeared in 1995; there is a $1 million reward for information leading to his arrest.

As its subtitle suggests, ”Street Soldier” is being marketed as a Whitey Bulger book. It isn’t really. Whitey is incidental to the story. It’s obvious that Eddie wants to settle a few scores, and he does. For example, he says that Whitey liked young girls, Cardinal Cushing High School teenyboppers in their school uniforms, and regularly took advantage of them at Eddie’s Boston gym, where Eddie has a two-way mirror for viewing the shower and hot tub. It was called the ”dog room.” But MacKenzie says Whitey also liked young boys, and drove one of his boy toys to suicide. Whitey’s homosexuality, according to Eddie, commenced at Alcatraz, where he was protected by the Choctaw Kid, Clarence Carnes, a lifer. Whitey went to Carnes’s funeral in 1988 and spent $10,000 to send his friend off properly.

One wonders what life would have been like for Eddie MacKenzie had it all started differently. He is no fool. He was a drug dealer smart enough not to do drugs, and he is doing all he can to assure his daughters have a better life than his. When arrested on drug charges he could not beat, he made his peace with the federal authorities to avoid jail time by informing on an operation far larger, if not more dangerous, than Whitey Bulger’s. Eddie tagged no less than Pablo Escobar’s Medellin drug operations, resulting in a record bust. Rather than entering the witness protection program, he enrolled in the University of Massachusetts in Boston and graduated.

In an unusual note in the front of advance copies of the book, reviewers were assured that Eddie used to be a career criminal and that his account is credible. Eddie himself doesn’t really say he is no longer a criminal but rather that he is still struggling with it: ”Every day I face a choice: continue to change or fall back to the comfortable, darker ways of my predator side.”

He admits he has slipped. The Boston Globe reported that he was indicted as recently as March 2002 for bilking a 71-year-old woman out of $200,000 by claiming he was the leader of a nonexistent military special forces unit that would rescue her son, who had been missing for a decade. Eddie told the woman her son was in a Cuban prison, which prosecutors say is untrue.

Eddie addresses another Globe story, in 2001, which questioned his claims about Whitey Bulger to ”60 Minutes” and The Boston Herald; he makes a reasonable case that The Globe’s sources were bad. What he does not address is his own response to the Globe reporters who pressed him to corroborate his assertions. ”I don’t really remember a lot because I had a lot of professional fights back then,” Eddie, the former Golden Glover and kickboxing champion, explains. ”I’m not copping a plea, but I got hit in the head a lot.”

His book contract at the time, for ”The Redemption of Eddie Mac,” was canceled. His new publisher has appropriately changed the title, for Eddie’s redemption appears to remain a work in progress. As for his credibility, I found him painfully convincing. Under the rules of evidence, an admission against interest can be considered self-validating, and Eddie’s admissions against interest have filled a book. I suspect he will not let his daughters read it until they are mature enough to handle it, for there is a lot here to handle.

John W. Dean, a former White House counsel, is the author, most recently, of ”The Rehnquist Choice” and ”Unmasking Deep Throat.”


Written by RM

August 30, 2009 at 4:14 pm

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