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Federal prosecutors say Whitey Bulger’s claim of immunity is ‘frivolous and absurd’

Prosecutors have asked a federal judge to determine before trial whether James “Whitey” Bulger has any standing to raise an immunity claim, arguing that the “frivolous and absurd” request should not be brought before a jury in the high-profile case.

“Otherwise, the trial of this matter will become unduly elongated and unmanageable,” prosecutors said late Friday in court filings.

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Prosecutors said the notorious gangster’s “pure fantasy” that he was granted immunity for his crimes should not continue to slow down the case.

The court filings were in response to a request by Bulger’s lawyers for federal prosecutors to produce more documents related to the late prosecutor Jeremiah O’Sullivan and the Organized Crime Strike Force he headed during part of Bulger’s alleged deadly reign of terror.

In recent court filings, Bulger’s lead lawyer, J.W. Carney Jr., alleged that O’Sullivan granted Bulger immunity for his crimes, including murder.

Carney argued that prosecutors’ failure to indict Bulger in the 1970s and 1980s, when his reputation as a gangster was well known, showed a conspiracy to protect him.

A series of hearings in federal court in the late 1990s eventually exposed that Bulger was an informant prized by the FBI at the same time that he rampaged through the Boston underworld.

US District Judge Richard G. Stearns has indicated that a jury may have to decide Bulger’s claim of immunity.

But prosecutors argued in a 30-page filing Friday that the claim is absurd, saying the courts have established that no contract gives a person a right to commit crimes, especially murder. Bulger’s own associates have previously claimed they received no authority to kill, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors also said that O’Sullivan denied in past congressional hearings that he granted Bulger immunity. Bulger’s former FBI handler, John Connolly Jr., has already been convicted of protecting Bulger from prosecution, prosecutors noted.

Prosecutors argued that no documents requested by the defense would support the claim of immunity.

“Perhaps realizing that no such documents exist, the defendant argues that the absence of such documents allows him to rummage through numerous irrelevant and privileged government memoranda hoping to find something from which he can argue the negative, i.e., the failure to prosecute equals immunity,” prosecutors argued. “The court should not allow such a fishing expedition.”

Milton J. Valencia can be reached at mvalencia@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.
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