More than two years after crime boss James "Whitey" Bulger was found murdered in West Virginia's Hazelton federal prison, no charges have been filed in his slaying. For that same period, Sean McKinnon has been asking why he was thrown into the "hole"—aka solitary confinement—after Bulger's murder, insisting he isn't tied to the mobster's demise. "I know nothing. I'm an innocent man," 35-year-old Sean McKinnon tells NBC News, which had also reported on McKinnon's plight back in May 2019. "I told the feds if I had something to tell them, I would." McKinnon was whisked to solitary after Bulger's killing. So was his cellmate, mob hitman Fotios "Freddy” Geas, and another gangster, Paul DeCologero, both deemed suspects, and Felix Wilson, who'd stayed in the same cell as Bulger the night he was killed. Critics say solitary confinement—given the somewhat more palatable label "restrictive housing" by the government—is overused, and often for periods that breach federal rules.
"Under international human rights law, solitary confinement lasting longer than 15 days is categorically prohibited, so 2 1/2 years is really beyond the pale," David Fathi, director of the ACLU's National Prison Project, tells NBC. "They plan to keep [McKinnon] in solitary until he breaks or confesses or shares information." But McKinnon, who's serving an eight-year sentence for firearms theft and has no known ties to the mob, says he has no info to share, and in January he filed a grievance about his status, which allows him just one phone call a month. After nearly a year of being completely alone, he does now have a cellmate: DeCologero. Hazelton's warden is staying tight-lipped on the matter, as is the Bureau of Prisons, citing "privacy, safety, and security concerns." Geas is said to be in solitary in another unit; Wilson has since been released from prison. Though McKinnon is set to get out next July, he now worries that won't happen. "They're treating me as a guilty man," he says. (Read more Whitey Bulger stories.)