Lawyers for James “Whitey” Bulger say they need to share information in sealed government files with people “from all walks of life’’ to properly defend the former FBI informant on federal murder and racketeering charges.
Henry Brennan Friday asked Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler to modify a so-called “protective order’’ that restricts Bulger’s lawyers to sharing any information provided by federal prosecutors to just witnesses, and people mentioned in the records.
“It is imperative that we have the most effective defense,’’ Brennan later told reporters. “In order to do that, it is important that we talk to people from all walks of life about this information so we can develop the best defense that we can.’’
But Assistant US Attorney Brian Kelly said in court that similar information has been provided to lawyers in other criminal and civil cases linked to Bulger under similar protective orders without impairing the defense lawyers or hampering relatives of Bulger’s alleged victims as they sued the government.
Kelly said in court that discovery in the Bulger case covers 300,000 pages. He called the defense request “ludicrous’’ because it would mean that defense attorneys would walk around with 300,000 documents as they interviewed people.
Kelly’s comments drew a sharp rebuke from Bowler, who told Kelly it was “ludicrous” what you just said. There may be five pages that they want to discuss with someone.’’
Warned by retired FBI agent John J. Connolly Jr. about his January 1995 indictment on racketeering charges, Bulger, a longtime FBI informant, fled and was joined about a month later by his girlfriend, Catherine Greig.
He was captured by the FBI Bulger Task Force, along with Greig, on June 22, 2011, in Santa Monica, Calif., where they had been living in the same rent-controlled apartment two blocks from the beach for 15 years. FBI agents seized 30 high-powered guns and $822,000 in cash that had been stuffed inside holes cut into the apartment walls and covered with photographs and mirrors.
Last month, an unrepentant Greig was sentenced to eight years in prison for helping him evade capture for more than 16 years. She is currently housed at a federal prison facility on Oklahoma City, according to the US Bureau of Prisons.
Speaking for the Boston Globe Newspaper Co., Boston attorney Jonathan Albano told Bowler that the newspaper, too, wants the documents unsealed.
Albano said the protective order violates the presumption under the First Amendment that government records are open to the public, and as such, should be modified to allow for the unsealing of as many documents as possible.
Bowler took the matter under advisement.