William James "Willie" Bosket, Jr. (born December 9, 1962) is an American convicted murderer, whose numerous crimes committed while he was still a minor led to a change in New York state law, so that juveniles as young as 13 could be tried as an adult for murder and would face the same penalties. He has been in either prison or reformatories for all but 18 months since 1971, and has spent all but 100 days of his adult life in custody. He is currently serving a sentence of 82 years to life at Five Points Correctional Facility.
Bosket was born in Harlem. His father, Willie Sr. (Butch), killed two people in a Milwaukee pawn shop shortly after his son was conceived and was sentenced to life in prison. His mother, Laura, had nothing to do with him, leaving Bosket to fend for himself. Early on, he gained a reputation as a violent child—a reputation on which he prided himself; he told juvenile authorities that one day he would be a killer just like his father. He was in and out of various reformatories from age nine onward. However, at the time the prevailing view was that a juvenile was incapable of committing a crime, so he always ended up back home. Nonetheless, it was believed early on that he would make good on his prediction that he would kill someone.
Subway murders and fallout
On March 19, 1978, Bosket, then fifteen years old, shot and killed Noel Perez on a train operating on the 3 New York City Subway service during an attempted robbery near the Harlem – 148th Street terminal station. Eight days later, Bosket and another accomplice shot dead another man, Moises Perez (no relation to his first victim) in another attempted robbery at the back of another 3 train at the 145th Street station, one station south of 148th Street (cornering the victim at the back of a train, as the subway station is one of just two in the system that can only board the first half of a subway train). In between, Bosket and his accomplice shot a New York City Transit employee working in the Lenox Terminal yard adjacent to the Harlem – 148th Street station and committed two other armed robberies, one of them on the A service.
Bosket was tried for the murders in New York City's family court. As the trial was underway, Bosket surprised his own lawyer by pleading guilty to both murders. He was sentenced to a maximum of five years in the Goshen Youth Facility. Although prosecutors tried to get a longer sentence, five years was the most they could get under the law of the time.
The short length of Bosket's sentence caused a huge public outcry. Governor Hugh Carey had opposed efforts by his opponent in that year's gubernatorial election, State Assembly Minority Leader Perry Duryea, to have juveniles tried as adults for certain crimes. However, after reading a report on Bosket's sentence, Carey called the state legislature into special session to pass the Juvenile Offender Act of 1978. Under this act, children as young as thirteen years old could be tried in an adult court for crimes such as murder, and receive the same penalties as adults. New York was the first state to enact a law of this nature; all of the other states have since followed suit.
A year after he began serving his sentence for the two murders, Bosket escaped from the youth facility. He was caught after two hours, tried as an adult for the escape and sentenced to four years in state prison. He was returned to the Division of Youth in 1979, and was released in 1983. After 100 days he was arrested when a man living in his apartment complex claimed Bosket had robbed and assaulted him. Then while awaiting trial on that crime, Bosket assaulted several court officers. He was found guilty of attempted assault for the dispute in the apartment and sentenced to seven years in prison.
At this point, his 1975 escape from Goshen came back to haunt him. He was 16 years old at the time, meaning he was now an adult for criminal purposes. In New York, escaping from a correctional facility is a felony, even if the facility is a youth facility. If he had been convicted of assaulting the court officers, he would have been a three-time convicted felon, and under New York's habitual offender law, he was facing an automatic sentence of 25 years to life. However, he was acquitted.
Convinced that he would die in prison, Bosket took out his rage on prison guards, getting into numerous altercations. Arrested for one of those incidents, he was convicted of assault and arson, and sentenced to 25 years to life. In 1989, he was sentenced to an additional 25-years-to-life sentence for stabbing a guard at the maximum-security Shawangunk Correctional Facility. After the 1988 assault, Bosket was transferred to Woodbourne Correctional Facility, where in April 1989 he drew a third 25-years-to-life sentence for assaulting a guard with a chain. All three sentences are consecutive.
Since the 1988 assault, Bosket (NYSDOCS inmate number 84A6391) has been housed at Woodbourne in solitary confinement. Although Woodbourne is normally a medium-security prison, Bosket is housed in a specially-built plexiglass-lined cell with four video cameras watching him at all times. Due to his history of swallowing objects, his cell has been stripped of everything except a cot and a toilet. The guards are not allowed to speak to him. He is only allowed out of his cell for one hour a day, and is shackled with a tow chain. Although he is allowed visitors, they must speak to him through a window in his cell. His earliest possible release date is September 16, 2062, when he would be 100 years old—all but assuring he will die in prison.
Bosket once declared "war" on a prison system that he claimed made him a "monster," and was cited for almost 250 disciplinary violations from 1985 to 1994. However, he has not had a disciplinary violation since 1994. According to a 2008 report in The New York Times, due to his numerous incidents of violence during the 1980s and 1990s, he is not slated to move into the general population until 2046, when he will be 84 years old. He is evaluated periodically, and may join the general population before 2046; otherwise, he will likely spend the rest of his life in solitary confinement. Department spokesman Erik Kriss told the Times, "This guy was violent or threatening violence every day. Granted, it was awhile ago, but there are consequences for being violent in prison. We have zero tolerance for that."
In 1995, New York Times reporter Fox Butterfield wrote All God's Children: The Bosket Family and the American Tradition of Violence (ISBN 0-307-28033-0), an examination of the escalating violence and criminality in succeeding generations of the Bosket family.
- Bronx Leads City in Convictions Under Tough Juvenile Offender Act, The New York Times, March 24, 1981
- Dodge City, The Deadliest Precinct in Town, New York Magazine, August 28, 1978
- Jailed 'Monster' Gets More Prison Time for Stabbing a Guard, The New York Times, April 20, 1989
- Department of Correctional Services Inmate Population Information Search
- The Bosket case at crimelibrary.com
- "A Boy Who Killed Coldly Is Now a Prison 'Monster'" – The New York Times, March 22, 1989
- "Bosket Loses Federal Court Ruling Over Being Shackled to Cell Door" – The New York Times, June 6, 1989
- "Two Decades in Solitary" – The New York Times, September 22, 2008
- Review of All God's Children: The Bosket Family and the American Tradition of Violence[dead link]
- Booknotes interview with Fox Butterfield on All God's Children: The Bosket Family and the American Tradition of Violence, March 31, 1996.