By Svea Herbst-Bayliss
BOSTON (Reuters) - The criminal trial of accused Boston mobster James "Whitey" Bulger will be delayed by four months to March 4, 2013, a federal judge ruled on Monday.
The 82-year-old reputed crime boss, who has been accused of 19 murders and eluded law enforcement for more than a dozen years, had requested a delay, noting that his lawyer needs more time to prepare for the trial.
J.W. Carney of Boston law firm Carney & Bassill said he has been unable to sift through the hundreds of thousands of pages of evidence that date back to the 1999 indictment and acknowledged that the defense has been "overwhelmed" by the amount of discovery it need to review.
The prosecutor contended that the request for a delay was sought because Bulger wanted to avoid a trial.
Bulger's lawyers initially requested that the trial, originally slated to begin in November, be postponed for a year. The entire trial is expected to last roughly three months, lawyers have said.
Bulger and his girlfriend Catherine Greig were arrested at their apartment hideout in California a year ago after having been on the run for 16 years. While Bulger had long been a fixture on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List, the couple managed to disappear into an ocean-side community where they looked like many aging couples.
The FBI finally appealed to the public for help and received a tip that lead to the arrests.
Greig was sentenced earlier this month to an eight-year prison term for helping Bulger evade the authorities for so long.
Bulger's defense team also requested that Judge Richard Stearns, who is scheduled to preside over the case, recuse himself because he worked for the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney's Office while Bulger allegedly committed the crimes.
To prepare for the trial, Bulger's lawyer also announced a list of 65 potential witnesses that reads like a Who's Who of politics and law enforcement, court documents show.
Former Massachusetts Governor William Weld is on the list as is Robert Mueller, the former head of the FBI. Jeremiah O'Sullivan, former chief of the Organized Crime Strike Force and a former acting U.S. Attorney, may also be called to testify.
"O'Sullivan was one of Bulger's key advocates at the Strike Force and U.S. Attorney's Offices, and exercised prosecutorial discretion in Bulger's favor in 1979 and the 1980s," according to a motion filed in U.S. District Court in Boston.
Prosecutors content that Bulger fled after getting a tip from a corrupt FBI official that he was about to be arrested.
(Additional reporting by Tim McLaughlin; Editing by Eric Walsh)