Willie Bosket Teen Killer Life In Solitary

Willie Bosket

Willie Bosket was fifteen when he murdered a man in a New York subway which would lead to changes on how juveniles are tried for murder. According to court documents Willie Bosket murdered the first man in the subway during a robbery and would murder another man eight days later.

Willie Bosket would plead guilty to both murders and would be sentenced to five years in prison which was the maximum at the time. Due to the short sentence many people were upset which led to a law change where juveniles as young as thirteen years old could be tried as an adult.

A year after he was sentenced Willie Bosket would escape from custody and when he was arrested he was charged as an adult for an assault that took place during the 100 days he was on the run and sentenced to an additional seven years in prison. Over the decades since this teen killer would assault a number of correctional guards and inmates and picked up sentences which would push his release date til 2062.

Willie Bosket 2023 Information

DIN (Department Identification Number)84A6391  
Date of Birth12/09/1962  
Race / EthnicityBLACK  
Custody StatusIN CUSTODY  
Housing / Releasing FacilityFIVE POINTS  
Date Received (Original)10/23/1984  
Date Received (Current)09/17/1986  
County of CommitmentNEW YORK  

Willie Bosket Other News

He is one of New York’s most isolated prisoners, spending 23 hours a day for the past two decades in a 9-by-6-foot cell. The only trimmings are a cot and a sink-toilet combination. His visitors — few as they are — must wedge into a nook outside his cell and speak to him through a 1-by-3-foot window of foggy plexiglass and iron bars.

In this static existence, Willie Bosket, 45, seems to have gone from defiant menace to subdued and empty inmate.

It was 30 years ago this month that a state law took effect allowing juveniles to be tried as adults, largely in response to Mr. Bosket’s slaying of two people on a New York subway when he was 15. He served only five years in jail for that crime because he was a juvenile, sparking public outrage. But shortly after completing his sentence, Mr. Bosket was arrested for assaulting a 72-year-old man.

He once claimed to be at “war” with prison officials. He said he laughed at the system and claimed to have committed more than 2,000 crimes as a child. He set fire to his cell and attacked guards. Mr. Bosket was sentenced to 25 years to life for stabbing a guard in the visitors’ room in 1988, along with other offenses, leading prison authorities to make him virtually the most restricted inmate in the state.

Now Mr. Bosket, who has gone 14 years without a disciplinary violation, does mainly three things: read, sleep and think.

“Just blank” is how Mr. Bosket described his existence during a recent interview at Woodbourne Correctional Facility, about 75 miles north of Manhattan. “Everything is the same every day. This is hell. Always has been.”

He is scheduled to remain isolated from the general prison population until 2046.

Mr. Bosket’s seclusion is part of a bigger debate over the confinement of troublesome inmates and the role of the prison system. Some say that Mr. Bosket’s level of seclusion is draconian, that he should be given an opportunity to rejoin the general population.

“He is a very dangerous person; he’s killed people,” said Jo Allison Henn, a lawyer who helped represent Mr. Bosket roughly 20 years ago when he fought unsuccessfully to have some of his restrictions removed. “I’m not saying he should be released from custody entirely, just the custody that he is in. It is beyond inhumane. I don’t think that too many civilized countries do that.”

But proponents of Mr. Bosket’s restrictions say he has proved to be something of an incorrigible danger to prison guards and other inmates and cannot be trusted in the general population. He is evaluated periodically, meaning he could rejoin the general prison population before 2046, said Erik Kriss, a spokesman for the State Department of Correctional Services.

“This guy was violent or threatening violence practically every day,” Mr. Kriss said. “Granted, it has been a while, but there are consequences for being violent in prison. We have zero tolerance for that.”

From 1985 to 1994, Mr. Bosket was written up nearly 250 times for disciplinary violations that included spitting on guards, throwing food and swallowing the handle of a spoon, according to prison reports.

Few, if any, of the state’s current inmates have been in disciplinary housing longer than Mr. Bosket, said Linda Foglia, a spokeswoman for the corrections department.

Willie Bosket Other News

Willie Bosket, a self-proclaimed ”monster” whose five-year sentence for two subway murders when he was 15 years old led New York to toughen its juvenile criminal laws, will be sentenced this morning for his latest crime, stabbing a prison guard.

”I laugh at this system because there ain’t a damn thing that it can do to me except to deal with the monster it has created,” Mr. Bosket said last February when he acted as his own lawyer in the assault trial.

Mr. Bosket, who once admitted to commiting more than 2,000 crimes between the ages of 9 and 15, including 25 stabbings, could be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for the attack, which occured while he was being interviewed by a journalist helping write his autobiography. The 26-year-old Mr. Bosket is already serving 28 years to life for assault and arson unconnected to his original murder conviction. State’s Most Violent Inmate

Because he is widely considered the most violent inmate in New York, Mr. Bosket is confined in a specially designed cell stripped of everything, including its lighting fixtures, to prevent him from swallowing them, as he has in the past. To increase his isolation, not even his guards may speak to him.

”The only noise Willie Bosket is going to hear is the sound of his toilet flushing,” said Thomas A. Coughlin 3d, the commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services.

But Mr. Bosket’s tale of crime and punishment raises troublesome questions about the criminal-justice system, human nature and the family.

Did the courts and juvenile authorities really help create the monster in Mr. Bosket, as he asserts? Or did his rage and penchant for violence stem from his upbringing on West 114th Street in Harlem? Or, as Mr. Bosket himself has often suggested, was he destined to follow the path of a father he never met who had an uncannily similar early life of crime?

Mr. Bosket’s supporters say the system is at least partly to blame. He was first put in a reform school at age 9 at his mother’s request. Since then, despite repeated escapes, he has been free a total of about 18 months.

In a 1981 deposition, Mr. Bosket said he went to reform school as a truant, but ”left with the knowledge of purse snatching and mugging and subconsciously, murder.”

Sylvia Honig, a social worker who first met him when he was 12, said reformatories let him conduct a reign of terror: attacking staff members with clubs, smashing windows, stealing, sodomizing other inmates, escaping in state vehicles.

”After a while, he got the impression he was omnipotent,” said Miss Honig, who became his closest friend, Andrew Cooper, the publisher of the black-owned City Sun weekly newspaper, which has just run a three-part series on Mr. Bosket, sees a broader problem. ”I’m not going to tell you Willie Bosket is a hero, but this case raises the issue of racism in my mind,” he said.”Since he was black, did the system ever identify him as a person worth saving?” Parallels With Father Same Reformatory At the Same Age

Mr. Bosket himself often ponders the eerie parallels in his life to that of his father, William James Bosket Sr. By a stunning coincidence, the elder Bosket was sentenced to the same reform school at age 9, the Wiltwyck School for Boys in Yorktown. Both father and son’s schooling stopped at third grade, but both are described by acquaintances as bright, witty and charming.

Willie Bosket’s mother, Laura, was preganant with Willie when his father was arrested for a double murder at the age of 20. His father later escaped, robbed a bank and made the F.B.I.’s most-wanted list before being caught and sentenced to the Federal penetentiary at Leavenworth, Kan.

But there he transformed himself into a ”well-disciplined, rational human being,” he once told Jet magazine. He became a computer programmer and used his income from operating the prison’s computers to attend the University of Kansas.

In 1980 he graduated with an almost straight A average, the first prisoner ever elected Phi Beta Kappa.

He was released in 1983 but then, after getting a good job in an aerospace company, was rearrested on charges of molesting his girlfriend’s daughter. His girlfriend disguised herself as a nurse, smuggled him a revolver and helped him escape before they were caught in a police shootout near Milwaukee.

As his last act, on March 7, 1985, he used his two remaining bullets to kill his companion and himself.

”Willie often wondered if there was some hereditary connection with his father,” said Matthew Worth, a reporter for the Utica Observer Dispatch. At Mr. Bosket’s suggestion, Mr. Worth had been interviewing him in Shawangunk prison for a year, when one day last April Mr. Bosket suddenly took out a homemade knife and stabbed the visitors room guard in the chest, ”It was so random, so senseless and stupid,” said Mr. Worth, who was too discouraged to continue writing the book.”He didn’t even know the guard.”

”We had made an agreement that he wouldn’t do anything to undermine the book, and then he betrayed me,” said Mr. Worth, who then testified against Mr. Bosket. ‘Legendizing Himself’ With No Way Out, He Blames Prisons

Donald Williams, the Ulster County assistant District Attorney who tried the case, feels the stabbing ”was just another attempt to gain attention.”

”He knows he’ll never get out of prison, so he’s attempting to legendize himself,” he said.

This explains Mr. Bosket’s strategy at the trial, Mr. Williams suggested, in which Mr. Bosket admitted in his opening statement that he had stabbed the guard, Earl Porter.

”I am telling you that the only regret Willie Bosket has is not killing Earl Porter,” he told the jury.

”I am going to show you why and I am going to show you why Willie Bosket is coming to hate this system.”

Mr. Williams and prison officials wonder what the system can do with a prisoner like Mr. Bosket who continues to commit crimes in jail? Mr. Bosket does not look dangerous – slightly built at 5 feet 9 inches and 150 pounds, he has a handsome, dimpled face.

But, according to one presentencing report, since 1984 Mr. Bosket has set fire to his cell seven times, attacked his guards nine times, and attempted several escapes.

After he set his cell afire in 1986 and assaulted a guard who came in to put out the blaze, he was found guilty of being a ”persistent felon.”

Normally, for the fire and assault, he would have received 3 1/2 to 7 years. But as a persistent felon, he got 25 to life.

There was irony in this, said James B. Flateau, a spokesman for the Department of Correctional Services. Mr. Bosket came back into the prison system in 1984 with a sentence of 3 1/2 to 7 years for mugging a half-blind 72-year-old man in Harlem. But because of his conduct in prison, he may now face a total of 53 years to life.

Mr. Bosket could not be interviewed for this story. He is being held in solitary confinement for the next 20 years. Uncontrolled Youth ‘He’s a Bad Man, You’re Like Him’

Those who know him believe Willie Bosket’s troubles started as a young boy in Harlem with a loving but passive mother but knowing almost nothing about his absent father.

”He used to ask, ‘Who is my father?”’ Miss Honig said. ”His mother and grandmother would say, ‘He’s a bad man, and you’re just like him.’ ”

In third grade at P.S. 207 his teacher was unable to control him, according to his own handwritten account at 13.

”Willie was having problems in school like pulling fire alarms and fighting with the students and the teachers and stealing school books and materials like colored paper,” he recounted in a bold, clear hand.

”Because the school thought Willie was krazy” he wrote, ”Willie was sent to Bellvue State Hospital for mental people.”

It was the first of several visits to Bellevue, where he threatened to set fire to the ward, had to be disarmed by hospital guards and threatened to kill a psychiatrist.

In 1973, at his mother’s request he was sent to a reformatory.

Miss Honig met him the next year as he was being transferred. ”I asked him what he was in for, and he said, ‘Stabbing people.’ ” ”Why did you do that?” ”Because they made me mad.”

A psychological test given Willie at Wiltwyck found him ”precocious, warm and empathetic.” But it warned that he needed support from adults ”in order to reach his above-average intellectual and creative potential.”

Instead, in 1974, a judge sent him to the Brookwood Center For Boys, a maximum security institution, where other inmates were in for murder, rape and armed robbery.

His years at Brookwood from 1974 to 1977, were critical for young Willie, Miss Honig believes. ”Because he was hardly ever disciplined, he became more assaultive and aggressive.”

In a diary she kept, she recorded how Willie was allowed to go into town with female staff members and get drunk, how he was permitted not to attend classes, how he hit another boy with a poker in the eye, how he sodomized another in the shower, how he stole cigarettes from a vending machine and sold them and how he drove a truck into a social worker.

Nonetheless, in 1977, at age 14, the school released him, sending him to a group home in Brooklyn and a job as a maintenance worker.

John Dieters, the supervisor of his wing at Brookwood, told Miss Honig: ”One of these days Willie is going to kill somebody.” Political Figure A Boy’s Killings Change State Law

Willie soon soon ran away to his family’s apartment in Harlem.

”They should have arrested him immediately,” Miss Honig said.

Instead Willie and a cousin, Herman Spates, began roaming the Seventh Avenue IRT subway line looking for drunks to rob.

On March 19, 1978, when one awoke as Willie was going through his pockets, he shot him in the temple with a .22-caliber pistol. Eight days later, he shot and killed another.

Asked how he felt, Mr. Bosket told the police, ”I shot people, that’s all. I don’t feel nothing.”

In June 1978 he was sentenced to five years in the custody of the Division for Youth, the maximum sentence under state law at the time.

But an angry outcry soon led Governor Hugh Carey to win passage of a new law letting juvenile offenders be tried as adults for murder.

At a Goshen youth facility, Mr. Bosket bashed two guards in the head with a mop handle and temporarily escaped.

His deepening anger showed in a letter to Miss Honig on May 26, 1982:

”I have now mentally prepared myself and have accepted the fact that I will be in prison for the rest of my life.

”I ridded myself of the sadistic killer in me because I knew it was wrong to be in me. But now it has come back, not because I wanted it to, but because the system forced it back.”

In December 1983, a few days after his 21st birthday, he was released.

On March 19, 1984, he was arrested for attempted robbery.

While at Goshen, Mr. Bosket learned about his father and began a writing to him at Leavenworth.

His father, by now a college graduate in prison, worried that Mr. Bosket was enamored with the revolutionary rhetoric of George Jackson, a former leader of the Black Panther Party who died during a controversial escape attempt from San Quentin in 1971.

”In your letter you seem taken with the ideas and writings of George Jackson most, and the need for confrontation with societal forces at large at some level of ‘revolutionary suicide.’ ” the elder Bosket wrote back.

”Frankly, that’s a bit too much excitement for me, and it has been my observation that the energies from such a thought basis tend to dissipate unfruitfully before the onrush of hard pragmatic realities. But then, I’m just old folks.”

Since then, Mr. Bosket has attacked one guard after another.

Even Miss Honig has stopped visiting him. ”I couldn’t go anymore,” she said. ”He’s living like an animal. The more they treat him like a monster, the more monstrous he becomes.”

The only lights are outside his cell door, which is covered with plexiglass to keep him from throwing feces or food. Video cameras focus on him.

He is allowed outside in a private area for one hour of exercise a day. But before he can come out of his cell, he must stick his arms and feet out to be manacled.

”He’s getting mad again,” said Miss Honig. ”I know it’s just a matter of time before he tries to kill someone or kill himself. He has told me, ‘If they kill me, then I can rest forever.’ ”


Willie Bosket Other News

 Retired state prison guard Earl Porter is nearing an anniversary he’d like to forget, but can’t and never will.

Thirty years ago, on April 16, 1988, one of New York’s most notorious inmates plunged a 10-inch shank into Porter’s chest, narrowly missing his heart.

However, his life still hung in the balance as paramedics worked frantically to counteract a collapsed lung filling with blood, as Porter was rushed to a hospital for emergency surgery.

“I remember them saying, ‘We’ve barely got a pulse,” the 62-year-old Greenfield resident said. “We don’t think he’s going to make it.”

The incident occurred at maximum-security Shawangunk Correctional Facility in Wallkill, where Porter worked a year after beginning his career as a state corrections officer. His assailant was Willie Bosket, Jr., then 25, whose extremely violent criminal record had prompted a change in state law, enabling juveniles as young as 13 to face the same murder charges and penalties as adults.

Bosket, now serving an 82 years-to-life sentence at Five Points Correctional Facility in Romulus, Seneca County, has been in prison or reformatories for all but 18 months since 1971, and has spent all but 100 days of his adult life in custody.

Forty years ago, on March 19, 1978, a then 15-year-old Bosket shot and killed a New York City subway passenger, and murdered another in similar fashion eight days later, during attempted robberies. As a youthful offender, he was sentenced to five years, the maximum allowed at the time.

Gov. Hugh Carey, running for re-election, had opposed efforts to have juveniles tried as adults for some crimes. But public outcry was so great over Bosket’s short sentence that Carey called the Legislature into special session to approve the Juvenile Offender Act of 1978.

Bosket escaped from a youth detention facility, was captured and over the next several years committed a long series of violent assaults, some against corrections officers, after being sent to state prison.

Porter wasn’t specifically targeted when Bosket stabbed him in a prison visiting room area. He was simply the latest victim of the inmate’s rage against authority and society-at-large.

“Wrong place, wrong time,” said Porter’s daughter, Kristy Roberts, who was 6 years old at the time.

Earl, a 1974 Ballston Spa High School graduate, and his wife, Marlene, were living in Greenfield, but he stayed with a sister, who lived near Wallkill, during the week and would travel home on weekends.

When the incident occurred, state troopers and prison officials from Mount McGregor Correctional Facility, in Wilton, were sent to locate Marlene and tell her what happened. She was just up the road, visiting her mother, with Kristy.

Prison officials stopped at Mom & Pop’s Store in Porter Corners, hoping to find Marlene. Being the small close-knit community it is, the store’s owners knew where she likely was.

“A corrections vehicle pulled up and the man said, ‘There’s been an accident and your husband’s in the hospital. It’s not looking good,’” Marlene said. “I was stunned. I just threw clothes in a bag, took my daughter and off we went.”

Porter had been taken to St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital in Newburgh, where he was in intensive care following surgery.

“It’s etched in my mind,” said Roberts, now 36. “I remember seeing him in his room with the chest tube pumping blood out of his lungs.”

Porter was released several days later, relatively quickly, considering how close he’d come to dying.

After recovering at home, Porter was reassigned to medium-security Mount McGregor where he worked for 25 years before retiring on Sept. 30, 2013, less than a year before the site closed under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s statewide prison scaledown program.

“I really didn’t want him to go back,” Marlene said.

During his 1989 trial for stabbing Porter, Bosket described himself as a “monster” and according to Porter said, “The only thing I regret is that I didn’t kill him.” Bosket’s father was serving a life sentence for murder, and when he was still a youthful offender Bosket said that he would some day kill someone, too.

For attacking Porter, who testified during the trial, Bosket was convicted of first-degree attempted murder, first-degree assault, third-degree criminal possession of a weapon and first-degree promotion of prison contraband.

He was given a life sentence and based upon his extremely violent conduct he’s been in “the box,” solitary confinement, since 1989 — allowed to leave his cell one hour per day for exercise.

Originally, Bosket was expected to stay in solitary until 2046 when he would be 84 years old. But this was reduced recently based on improved behavior. Prison officials review his status regularly, to determine if he should be allowed to join the general inmate population.

Looking back, Porter believes another inmate put the weapon Bosket used in an overhead bathroom light fixture. Bosket retrieved it after being interviewed by a journalist and managed to slip by an officer stationed at a frisk area before attacking Porter, who was seated at a desk.

“He was in solitary back then, too,” Porter said. “He shouldn’t have been in a regular visiting room area.”

It was by far the most severe altercation Porter suffered during his career, but not the only one. At Mount McGregor, an inmate once head-butted him.

Porter will never know why fate linked him to one of America’s most violent felons, prompting a case that generated nationwide media attention.

New York was the first-ever state to adopt a law such as the Juvenile Offender Act of 1978. Since then, every other state has followed suit.

These days, at 62, Porter spends his time “just catching up on projects, doing things I didn’t have time to do when I was working. I miss the people that I worked with, but I don’t miss the job.”

The upcoming 30th anniversary of his brush with death is bittersweet. He’s glad to be alive, that he and Marlene had another child — their son, Justin — along with countless other blessings. But in some respects he’s also a prisoner of horrific memories, which like victims of all violent crimes, he’ll never escape from.

“I try not to think about it, but it never goes away,” Porter said. “It’s just planted there.”


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