BOSTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Marshals Service on Friday defended its use of a Coast Guard helicopter after drawing fire for flying former Boston mob boss and accused murderer James "Whitey" Bulger to court hearings from a regional prison.
"It is not uncommon for the Marshals Service to utilize other resources to assist in their mission of providing safe and secure movement of federal detainees," the Marshals Service said in a statement sent Friday afternoon.
Thursday's trip cost $1,500, the Marshals Service said in its statement. A Justice Department spokeswoman confirmed the agency was referring to the ride for Bulger, now 81 years old.
His aerial transport to Boston's waterfront federal courthouse for hearings drew much criticism locally that authorities are coddling the onetime crime boss, whose role as an FBI informant became a national embarrassment for the agency.
Like the FBI, the Marshals Service is part of the U.S. Department of Justice. A Marshals Service official declined to elaborate on the statement. Coast Guard officials were not immediately available to comment.
Bulger is being held in the Plymouth County Correctional Facility in Southeastern Massachusetts, 41 miles from the federal courthouse, according to Mapquest.com.
Local media reported he was flown from Plymouth Municipal Airport to Boston's Logan International Airport not far from the courthouse on Thursday, and then back, after a pair of court hearings.
For previous appearances officials have moved Bulger in a motorcade. He was first captured in California after 16 years on the run, and reportedly flown to Boston aboard a government jet for his first appearance a week ago.
(Reporting by Ross Kerber; Editing by Jerry Norton)