Mob kingpin Bulger heads to court as questions swirl

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 28, 2011 10:08 AM
Mob kingpin Bulger heads to court as questions swirl

BOSTON (Reuters) - Former mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger heads back to federal court in Boston on Tuesday as it emerged he visited Boston in disguise and heavily armed on several occasions while on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List.

Tuesday's hearing, due to start at 2 p.m. local time, will focus on the issue of assigning legal counsel to Bulger, who has requested a court-appointed public defender.

Authorities are adamant that the former crime boss should not get counsel at public expense.

"He has every incentive to lie and stick the taxpayers with the bill for his defense," prosecutors said in a filing on Monday.

Bulger, 81, who had been on the FBI's Most Wanted List, and Catherine Greig were arrested at their rent-controlled apartment in Santa Monica, California, a few blocks from the ocean, on June 22 after being on the run together since 1995.

The pair had more than $820,000 in the hideout, much of it in $100 bills bundled together and stashed inside a wall.

Prosecutors have demanded that Bulger's family, including William "Billy Bulger," a former president of the Massachusetts State Senate, provide sworn affidavits about his financial position. Bulger said in a filing that he does not want help from his family to pay for his defense.

On Monday Greig, 60, hired Kevin Reddington, a well-known criminal defense attorney, to represent her. Greig has a detention hearing scheduled for Thursday.

At present Bulger is being held at the Plymouth County jail, south of Boston, where he is reportedly confined to his cell 23 hours a day. In the remaining hour Bulger can shower, exercise and make phone calls.

Prosecutors said in a filing on Monday that Bulger told FBI agents some details of his years running from the law -- and from 19 murder charges -- after his arrest.

"Bulger admitted traveling (in disguise) to Boston on several occasions while 'armed to the teeth' because he 'had to take care of some unfinished business,'" the filing said.

That comment begged the question of who among Bulger's circle -- family, friends and associates -- might have known about or helped facilitate those trips.

In the 1990s it emerged that Bulger had long been an FBI informant, tipping off a small band of corrupt federal agents about the activities of other Boston-area criminals.

In turn, those agents looked the other way at Bulger's organized crime enterprise, the violent Winter Hill Gang. Bulger is also charged with racketeering, money laundering and narcotics distribution, among other offenses.

(Reporting by Ros Krasny and Lauren Keiper in Boston, and Jeremy Pelofsky in Washington)