By Scott Malone and Valerie Vande Panne
BOSTON (Reuters) - Former Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger's longtime girlfriend could spend the rest of her life in prison for refusing to say whether anyone helped the couple during their 16 years on the run, a judge warned on Wednesday.
Catherine Greig, 64, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to contempt of court charges for refusing to cooperate with investigators pursuing anyone who may have aided the pair.
She is already serving an eight-year sentence in federal prison for identity fraud and harboring a fugitive during her years in hiding with Bulger, who fled Boston in 1994 after a corrupt FBI agent warned him that arrest was imminent.
U.S. District Judge Dennis Saylor told Greig that federal law placed no limits on a sentence for contempt of court.
"There is no maximum. There is no mandatory minimum," Saylor told Greig, who appeared in court in a blue prison jumpsuit, her gray hair cropped short.
Bulger, 86, was found guilty in 2013 of murdering or ordering the killings of 11 people while he ruled Boston's underworld as the notorious leader of the "Winter Hill" crime gang in the 1970s and 1980s.
His run atop the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted List" ended in 2011 when agents arrested the pair at their California apartment building.
Greig spoke little during the hearing, telling the judge she understood what he was saying and at one point blurting out, "I didn't ask for immunity."
The underworld's code of silence was a major theme throughout Bulger's trial. His attorneys admitted in their opening statements that their client was a mobster but repeatedly denied he had been an FBI informant, contending that he paid corrupt agents for tips but provided no information in return.
Saylor set sentencing for April 28. Greig's lawyer, Kevin Reddington, said he would ask for leniency, noting that his client had worked to train service dogs for the blind while in prison and adding, "At 64, one day is punishment."
Steven Davis, whose sister Debra Davis was among the people Bugler was accused but not convicted of murdering, said he hoped that Greig would break her silence.
"I wouldn't like to see her get life. I want her to talk," Davis said. "It's a shame she has to waste her life in jail."
The 2015 film "Black Mass" told the story of the gangster's rise to power and ultimate flight from the city.
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by David Gregorio and Cynthia Osterman)