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Catherine Greig’s attorney asks for leniency

Seeks 27-month term, calls her guilty only of love in aiding Bulger

Catherine Greig

US Marshals Service/AP File

Catherine Greig

Catherine Greig enters federal court Tuesday for sentencing with the hope that the judge will deem her a victim of love who should not be harshly punished for the crimes of gangster James “Whitey’’ Bulger.

On the eve of the closely watched sentencing, Greig’s lawyer argued that her only fault was falling in love with Bulger, a love akin to “Shakespeare’s sonnets,’’ and that is why she joined him during his 16 years on the run. Kevin Reddington urged a sentence of two years and three months for his client, a far cry from the 10-year sentence prosecutors will be seeking.

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Reddington said Greig, who has been in jail since her arrest, loved Bulger’s image as “a hero, a champion of the oppressed, [who] liked to be a ‘Robin Hood-like’ person.’’ He added: “She at no time believed him to be a murderer.’’

The drama of the day in US District Court in Boston will include another tension: whether the families of Bulger’s alleged victims will be allowed to provide statements.

Greig’s lawyer has asked the court to prohibit the families’ testimony, arguing that they have no legal standing.

Family members lashed out in response, saying that Greig had long deprived them of their chance to see Bulger brought to justice.

“He knows it’s only going to hurt Catherine Greig if the victims get to speak,’’ said Tom Donahue, whose father, Michael, was allegedly killed by Bulger. “She was helping him elude the police for 16 years. She knew exactly who he was and why he was wanted.’’

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He argued that Greig should serve the maximum 15 years.

The 61-year-old Greig was arrested with Bulger last June at the Santa Monica, Calif., apartment where they had been staying since at least 1996. Bulger, facing a racketeering indictment that alleges he took part in 19 killings, was on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, and he fled just before he was about to be charged in an initial indictment in 1994, after being tipped off by a corrupt FBI handler. He is slated to go to trial in November.

Greig, a dental hygienist by trade who joined Bulger in 1995, pleaded guilty in March to helping him stay on the lam, by handling routine affairs such as paying bills and the rent. She also brought him to the doctor, and prosecutors have called her his partner on the run.

She faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each of the three convictions: conspiracy to harbor a fugitive, conspiracy to commit identity fraud, and identity fraud. Probation officials say Greig faces 27 to 33 months in prison under sentencing guidelines, a calculation that Reddington says accurately represents “her personal history.’’

US District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock is slated to hand out the sentence Tuesday morning, but he must first decide on several legal questions, such as whether the families of Bulger’s alleged victims have any standing in the Greig case.

Prosecutors said they do, under the federal Crime Victims Rights Act, which allows a victim of a crime to be heard at any court proceeding. Prosecutors say Greig caused the victims “emotional harm’’ by helping Bulger stay on the run.

Dan Medwed, who will be joining Northeastern University School of Law as a professor this summer, said that both sides have touched upon a complex legal issue. The courts have held that victims can testify at trials, but the victims must have suffered direct harm from the defendant. Otherwise, anyone who has ever professed to have suffered from a crime would be able to testify, he said.

“The line is pretty thin on what direct harm is,’’ he said. “Prosecutors will have to say that [Greig] directly harmed the victims by prolonging their agony. So really, they’re saying she was almost an accomplice to Whitey Bulger’s crimes.’’

Prosecutors have also asked that Woodlock hold a hearing to determine what additional factors he should be able to consider when handing out the sentence, beyond the measures that probation officials used to calculate their recommendation.

Assistant US Attorney Jack W. Pirozzolo argued in court records last week that Greig should be held accountable for the 30 weapons and the more than $820,000 in cash that was found in their apartment.

He also said that Woodlock should account for the way Greig carried out her crimes: by buying the identities of alcoholic, mentally ill vagrants in Santa Monica, which Pirozzolo called preying on the downtrodden.

But Reddington argued in his filing Monday that there was no evidence that Greig was aware of the weapons or the amount of money. He acknowledged that Greig handled their daily affairs, but said she paid with cash that Bulger kept in a kitchen drawer, “much like a cash register.’’

“This drawer was the source of her weekly expense money to maintain the modest lifestyle they had,’’ he said.

Reddington also took issue with prosecutors’ description of the people whose identities were used, saying that the identities were paid for. He said Bulger would actually befriend many of them and pay their bills, noting Bulger’s reported emotional reaction when he had been talking to an FBI agent about the death of one of them.

At no time, Reddington said, did Greig ever seek to profit from the identities.

“She did not mastermind or in a sinister fashion prevent law enforcement from finding Bulger,’’ he said. “She acted in all respects as his wife and housemate. . . . She was in love with him.’’

Reddington singled out Steve Davis, the brother of alleged Bulger victim Debra Davis, whom he called the “self-anointed spokesman for ‘the victims.’ ’’

The attorney argued that prosecutors only sought the stiff sentence for his client after Davis told reporters recently that “anything lighter than [10 years] would be corrupt.’’ He called it a case of “the tail wagging the dog.’’

But Davis said Monday that his demands for justice for his sister, who was allegedly strangled by Bulger, will not end “until they bury me.’’

“Don’t single me out because I speak on behalf of my sister,’’ said Davis, whose sister’s body was among the six unearthed in secret graves in Quincy and Dorchester in 2000. “There was love for these people they buried. . . . She wasn’t a homeless person; she wasn’t an unknown person. She was my sister.’’

Shelley Murphy of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Milton J. Valencia can be reached at mvalencia@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.

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