Judge taps high-profile defender for mob boss Bulger
Former Boston mob boss and accused murderer James "Whitey" Bulger will have a high-profile criminal defense attorney, J. W. Carney, represent him at public expense, a federal judge ruled on Thursday.
Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler rejected the prosecution's argument that Bulger should not get publicly funded counsel in his pending trial for racketeering, 19 counts of murder and other crimes.
There was no evidence that Bulger had the means to pay for his defense, Bowler said, setting his arraignment for July 6.
Bulger, 81, is the former leader of the notorious Winter Hill Gang, a mostly Irish-American organized crime operation based in Boston.
He had been sought by the authorities over murders committed in the 1970s and 1980s, many of them brutal slayings, and charges of drug dealing, extortion, money laundering and conspiracy.
Carney, named as one of the five best private criminal defense lawyers in Massachusetts by Boston magazine, takes the reins in what is expected to be a lengthy and complex case.
Bulger, who had been on the FBI's Most Wanted List, and long-time girlfriend Catherine Greig had some $820,000 of cash on hand when they were arrested last week in California after a 16-year FBI manhunt.
According to prosecutors, Bulger and Greig were able to finance a comfortable lifestyle during their time in hiding, replete with Las Vegas gambling trips and jaunts to Mexico to buy medications.
But proceeds of criminal activities cannot be used to bankroll a defense. Bulger has said through counsel that he did not want his family to be tapped to help pay for his defense.
Bulger, in an orange prison-issue jumpsuit, was in court for Bowler's ruling and for an earlier hearing, when a federal judge ruled on how his lengthy rap-sheet would be prosecuted.
Judge Mark Wolf allowed the government to dismiss a 1994 racketeering-focused indictment and focus on 19 murder charges contained in a separate indictment, while denying a defense bid to consolidate all the charges.
A conviction on just one count of murder in Massachusetts could send Bulger to prison for life, and authorities have said that focusing on the murder cases could bring quicker justice to the families of Bulger's alleged victims.
Judge Wolf said it was not clear that lumping the two indictments together, as Bulger's provisional attorney Peter Krupp requested, had any legal basis.
Brothers William "Billy" Bulger, the former Massachusetts Senate President, and John "Jackie" Bulger, a retired court clerk magistrate convicted of perjury in 2003, were seated in court, as were families of some of Bulger's alleged murder victims.