Ex-hitman says he's a "government witness" not a "rat"

John Martorano took the stand against his former boss, James "Whitey" Bulger, but the longtime hitman doesn't consider himself a rat

John Martorano, who for a decade was the chief executioner for Boston’s Winter Hill Gang, took the stand against his former boss, James “Whitey” Bulger, on Tuesday. But the longtime hitman told 60 Minutes he doesn’t consider himself a rat. He says he’s a government witness. What’s the difference?

“One’s got the courage to stand on the stand, the other ones are doing it behind your back and dropping dimes,” Martorano told Steve Kroft in a 2008 interview for 60 Minutes, video above. The 19 murder charges that Bulger currently faces are largely a result of Martorano’s cooperation with law enforcement.

In 1995, Martorano learned that Bulger was a top-level FBI informant. “Worst day of my life,” he told Kroft. His sense of loyalty was shattered and he began to talk. As part of a plea deal, he confessed to committing 20 murders and agreed to testify against Bulger in court. In exchange, Martorano, who many considered to be the most feared man in Boston, was back on the streets after serving only 12 years in prison.

Watch Steve Kroft’s above report, “The Executioner,” for more on Martorano’s criminal past.