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Judge declines to push back trial date for ‘Whitey’ Bulger

A federal magistrate judge maintained Friday that James “Whitey” Bulger will go to trial in March, in spite of pleas by a lawyer for the notorious gangster that he cannot be reasonably prepared by then.

J.W. Carney Jr. said it would take him until May to finish reading the hundreds of thousands of documents in the case, but he received little sympathy from US Magistrate Judge ­Marianne Bowler, who said the case will go to trial as scheduled.

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“The trial date remains firm,” she said, during a status hearing in US District Court in Boston.

In the latest of what have become contentious status hearings in the high-profile case, Bowler also sought to clamp down on back and forth argu­ments between Carney and prosecutors and what she called complaints of the ­defense. “This is a continuing crying saga,” she said. “This is beginning to sound like a broken record.”

Carney barked back that he was trying to make a point, adding, “I’m just interrupting your interruption.” He apologized to Bowler.

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Outside the courthouse later, Carney said: “We will do every­thing within our power to assure that he receives a fair trial. That is the issue at these preliminary hearings: Will James Bulger have an adequate time to have a lawyer prepared, so that he gets a fair trial?”

“People may not want to hear me say it, but I am going to continue to speak out on behalf of my client’s right to a fair trial, no matter how much other people oppose it,” Carney said.

Bulger, 83, was one of America’s Most Wanted until his ­arrest in June 2011 in Santa Monica, Calif., after more than 16 years on the lam. He is charged in a federal racketeering indictment with participating in 19 murders. His girlfriend, Catherine Greig, pleaded guilty this year to charges of harboring a fugitive and identity fraud. She was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Prosecutors have moved for a swift trial, citing Bulger’s age and the age of witnesses in the case. Many of the allegations date back four decades.

Carney has said that much of the case will center on government witnesses who have received plea deals for their testimony, such as former Bulger associate Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, who escaped the death sentence in part because of his cooperation.

Carney has asked the court to force disclosure of any information related to Bulger, saying documents and transcripts of testimony could impeach the witnesses’ credibility. ­Bowler ordered both sides to meet to discuss the case. A status hearing is scheduled Oct. 22.

Milton J. Valencia
can be reached at
MValencia@globe.com.
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