Skip to main content

Judge denies 'Whitey' Bulger request to merge racketeering cases

From the CNN Wire Staff
Click to play
James 'Whitey' Bulger arrives in Boston
  • A judge appointed J.W. Carney Jr. as Bulger's public defender
  • Bulger's arraignment is set for July 6
  • A judge denied a petition to combine two pending racketeering cases
  • The judge ruled in favor of a prosecutor's request to dismiss a lesser indictment

Boston (CNN) -- A federal judge on Thursday denied a petition of James "Whitey'' Bulger to consolidate two pending racketeering cases against the reputed mobster, ruling in favor of prosecutors' requests to dismiss the lesser 1994 indictment in an effort to focus on 19 murder charges.

Interim defense attorney Peter Krupp had requested the merger, which prosecutors argued was meant to complicate the more severe charges that Bulger faces.

Krupp had accused federal prosecutors of dropping the less serious charge in order to "game the system" and allow a different judge to hear the case.

The racketeering indictment, filed in 1995, had been assigned to U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf. The murder charges are part of a case brought in 2000 and assigned to a different judge.

"The government's apparent forum shopping is contrary to the public interest and undermines public confidence in the judicial process," Krupp argued. "The government's actions, choosing to pursue a new indictment, rather than a superseding indictment before this Court, reflect a manipulation of the case." he said.

Wolf ruled against Krupp's request during the first of two hearings Thursday afternoon in Boston.

Bulger wants FBI leaks stopped
'Whitey' Bulger arrives in court

In a second hearing, Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler appointed prominent defense attorney J.W. Carney Jr. as Bulger's public defender after it became clear the accused mobster lacked the resources to pay for his own attorney.

Carney said the case represented "a daunting task, but we're up for it."

Prosecutors -- who said FBI agents seized more than $822,000 in cash from Bulger's Santa Monica, California, apartment -- said he should have picked up his own legal tab.

"He has every incentive to lie and stick the taxpayers with the bill for his defense," prosecutors wrote in court papers filed Tuesday. They said Bulger has admitted to stashing more money away with "people he trusted" but would not name, and suggested that Bulger's brother William could pay for a lawyer.

Clad in an orange jumpsuit and flanked by two security guards, Bulger was escorted off a helicopter at Logan International Airport in Boston and then ushered to a van that brought the alleged mobster to court. The helicopter brought Bulger to Boston from a jail in Plymouth, Massachusetts, where he was being held.

His arraignment is set for July 6.

Bulger's attorneys have also argued that leaks about the case endanger the former fugitive's right to a fair trial on murder charges.

"If it is now possible -- and Mr. Bulger seriously questions whether it will be possible -- for Mr. Bulger to receive a fair trial, law enforcement leaks of nonpublic information must end, with disclosures of information limited to the judicial process," Krupp wrote.

In an affidavit unsealed by a judicial order, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said the leaks issue was a "grave concern."

She said law enforcement agencies must ensure no information is released prior to introduction in court. Ortiz also indicated she may call for an investigation into the matter.

Prosecutors say the 81-year-old Bulger was the boss of South Boston's Irish mob before he fled an impending racketeering indictment in 1995. At the same time, he was an FBI informant whose handler tipped him off about the charges -- a tale that became the basis for the Oscar-winning crime drama "The Departed."

Bulger was arrested last week in California, along with his longtime girlfriend, 60-year-old Catherine Elizabeth Greig. She has been charged with harboring a fugitive.

His brother, William, is a former president of the University of Massachusetts and a state Senate leader. He was forced to step down from his university job after then-Gov. Mitt Romney, now a Republican presidential candidate, accused him of being evasive during congressional testimony about the whereabouts of his brother, "Whitey."

Bulger lived "a relatively comfortable lifestyle" for the 16 years he was a fugitive, taking numerous gambling trips to Las Vegas, according to a government document filed in his case. Prosecutors say Bulger waived his Miranda rights after his arrest and told agents who were taking him back to Boston that he had been "a frequent traveler as a fugitive," according to the government.

"Bulger acknowledged visiting Las Vegas on numerous occasions to play the slots and claimed he won more than he lost," the filing said. "Bulger also admitted traveling to San Diego and then crossing over into Tijuana to purchase medicines."

Bulger also told the feds that he traveled back to Boston "on several occasions while 'armed to the teeth' because he 'had to take care of some unfinished business,'" the document said. Bulger refused to tell the agents any details of his Boston visits, it said.

CNN's Sheila Steffen and Jason Kessler contributed to this report.