By Lauren Keiper
BOSTON (Reuters) - Prosecutors sought to expedite the murder and racketeering case against former Boston mobster James "Whitey" Bulger, asking a federal judge to speed up the pretrial process for the now 82-year-old defendant who spent 16 years on the run.
Prosecutors said the government and families of the 19 people Bulger is accused of having a hand in killing would like to see the him brought to trial quickly, and requested that there be just one last status conference for attorneys.
"The fact that he is 82, that is relevant," Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Kelly told the judge, adding that he believed Bulger was trying to slow down the process.
Bulger, a one-time FBI informant who was not in court for the hearing, pleaded not guilty in July to all charges against him, including 19 murders in the 1970s and 1980s, many of them brutal slayings.
Bulger's defense team said reviewing the voluminous discovery would take more time.
"It's so enormous that I've never seen anything like it," defense attorney J.W. Carney Jr said about the evidence turned over by the government. "The idea that we are delaying this case so he can't go to trial is false."
Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler granted the defense additional time to review discovery. She said she expected the defense to outline what other documents they need at an interim status conference set for next month, as well as exactly how long they need for review.
Bulger, who for years led the Winter Hill Gang, a mostly Irish-American Boston organized crime operation, was arrested in June in California along with longtime girlfriend Catherine Greig, 60.
Authorities have said the pair had a stash of about 30 firearms and $822,000 in cash hidden in holes in the wall of their apartment when they were arrested.
Bulger fled Boston in late 1994 after receiving a tip from a corrupt FBI agent that federal charges against him were pending. Greig joined him a short time later and has been charged with harboring Bulger as a fugitive.
Greig has pleaded not guilty to that charge. She remains behind bars pending a spring trial after a judge deemed her a serious flight risk and denied her request for bail.
(Reporting By Lauren Keiper; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)