Catherine Greig, the girlfriend who spent years on the run with notorious Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger, was sentenced today to eight years in prison by a federal judge who said that Greig had aided “someone accused of the most serious crimes imaginable” to evade capture by law enforcement.
“We’re all responsible for what we do,” US District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock told Greig at her sentencing hearing. “We all make choices.”
“There has to be a price imposed,” the judge said, “to serve as general deterrence.”
Greig looked somber and stared straight ahead as the sentence was announced. She nodded as the judge said a price had to be paid. She nodded to her twin sister, Margaret McCusker, as she was led away.
The sentencing closed another chapter in the saga of Bulger, a fearsome figure accused of 19 murders who once roamed Boston’s underworld while at the same time being protected as a highly prized FBI informant. His connections with a corrupt FBI agent led to a tipoff that allowed him to flee and remain a fugitive for 16 years, until his arrest, along with Greig, last year, in California. Bulger now faces a trial in the fall.
Woodlock, saying that the case demonstrated “how the criminal justice system can break down” but also how the system could resolve issues, also fined Greig $150,000 and ordered her to serve three years of supervised release.
Prosecutors say Greig, 61, was the “key actor” in a conspiracy that allowed Bulger to evade law enforcement. Assistant US Attorney Jack Pirozzolo told the judge today that 10 years would be “wise and reasonable,” considering the nature of the case.
“Essentially, the defendant was committing a crime, day after day,” Pirozzolo said in US District Court. “This is a woman who by choice chose to help a man who has been accused of vicious crimes.”
US Attorney Carmen Ortiz, taking issue with the defense argument that Greig was a victim of her love for Bulger, said after the hearing that the case “was not about a woman making wrong choices because she fell in love. This was not a romantic saga.”
But defense attorney Kevin Reddington told reporters, “She’s in love with the guy. If she could be with the guy right now, she’d be with him. And she doesn’t believe for one minute that he’s guilty or capable of these horrible crimes. She doesn’t buy it, she doesn’t believe it, and she absolutely stands by her man.”
The sentencing hearing included brief but emotionally charged testimony from relatives of some of Bulger’s victims.
Tim Connors, 37, whose father, Edward, was allegedly shot to death by Bulger June 12, 1975 — 37 years ago today — was first to speak. He addressed Greig, saying, “You are as much a criminal as Whitey, and you ought to be handled as such. ... You are a cold-hearted criminal.”
For the most part, when the relatives were speaking, Greig looked straight ahead, avoided eye contact, and showed no obvious emotion.
However, when Connors referred to the 1984 suicide of her brother, David, her composure crumpled.
Connors said he would have killed himself, too, if he had a sister like Greig. Greig gasped, then put her hands to her face and mouth – and started to cry. It took her several minutes to regain her composure. In March, Greig said in open court that she had sought psychiatric counseling after her brother shot himself to death.
After the hearing, Patricia Donahue, whose husband Michael, was an innocent victim when he was murdered in 1992, said she appreciated the opportunity to finally speak directly to Greig.
“I was very nervous,’’ she told reporters. “But I felt really good to tell her how I felt.’’
Her son, Tom Donahue, added, “It’s good to see a judge finally put the hammer down a little bit.’’
Greig and Bulger were arrested last June at a Santa Monica, Calif., apartment where they had been staying since at least 1996, leading quiet lives in the oceanside city. Bulger, facing a racketeering indictment that alleges he took part in a host of murders, was on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. He fled the Boston area just before he was about to be charged in an initial indictment in 1994, after being tipped off by his corrupt FBI handler.
Greig pleaded guilty in March to three charges: conspiracy to harbor a fugitive, conspiracy to commit identity fraud, and identity fraud. She faced a maximum of five years behind bars for each charge and a $250,000 fine.
Federal probation officials originally calculated that Greig should face 27 to 33 months in prison under sentencing guidelines, a calculation that her lawyer, Reddington, said in court papers accurately represented “her personal history.’’ He asked for 27 months.
But federal prosecutors argued for the 10-year sentence. And relatives of Bulger’s victims wanted her to serve the full 15 years
The prosecutors argued that the sentence should be tough because of, among other things, lies that Greig had told investigators after her arrest and her knowledge of the approximately 30 guns that Bulger had hidden in the Santa Monica apartment.
Woodlock initially appeared skeptical today of prosecutors’ claims that Greig knew about the guns.
“Mr. Bulger doesn’t strike me as someone who would welcome the opportunity to share his weapons -- with anyone,” he said.
But he ultimately ruled that she did know.
“It is apparent to me she knew there were lots of weapons,” he said.
Greig, a dental hygienist by trade who joined Bulger in 1995, pleaded guilty 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 helped him to steal the identities of homeless people and substance abusers.
Prosecutors said she enjoyed Bulger’s money and the life it brought her, she has shown no remorse, and her loyalty to Bulger “overrides any respect she has for the law.”
Milton J. Valencia can be reached at email@example.com.