"Whitey" Bulger heads back to court on attorney issue

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 30, 2011 9:58 AM
"Whitey" Bulger heads back to court on attorney issue

BOSTON (Reuters) - James "Whitey" Bulger is expected to learn the fate of his request for a public defender on Thursday, when the former mob boss returns to federal court in Boston for two separate hearings.

Back-to-back court appearances, the first scheduled for 1 p.m. ET, should resolve the lingering issue of who will represent the aging gangster against charges that include racketeering and murder.

Bulger, 81, who had been on the FBI's Most Wanted List, and his longtime companion Catherine Greig, 60, were arrested in Santa Monica, California, on June 22 after being on the run together since 1995.

The arrests came after a tip from a member of the public, days after the FBI launched a new media campaign.

Bulger 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 for 19 counts of murder committed in the 1970s and 1980s, many of them brutal slayings, and charges of drug dealing, extortion, money laundering and conspiracy.

Bulger and Greig had some $820,000 stashed in a wall in their California hide-out and according to prosecutors were able to finance a comfortable lifestyle replete with Las Vegas gambling trips and jaunts to Mexico to buy medications.

Bulger requested a court-appointed attorney on June 24 during his initial appearance in federal court in Boston, but prosecutors have been adamant his defense should not be at public expense.

Bulger's provisional attorney and prosecutors have also wrangled this week over the government's dismissal of a 1994 racketeering-focused indictment to concentrate resources on the stronger 1999 case that includes the multiple murder charges.

The defense moved instead to consolidate the two indictments, saying they are related and in some cases identical.

Both sides lobbed accusations of forum shopping -- an attempt to manipulate the random assignment of judges to the Bulger case or cases. A judge is expected to rule on this matter in a separate hearing.

(Reporting by Lauren Keiper; editing by Ros Krasny)