Relatives of the alleged victims of James “Whitey” Bulger had a right to speak during the sentencing of the gangster’s girlfriend, Catherine E. Greig, a federal prosecutor said in a court filing last week.
In a brief filed Friday in response to Greig’s bid to cut her 8-year prison sentence by more than five years, First Assistant US Attorney Jack W. Pirozzolo said the family members were also harmed by her, despite claims to the contrary by Greig’s appellate lawyer.
“Each of them discussed the harm they and their families suffered as a direct result of Greig’s ‘conduct’ in harboring Bulger,” Pirozzolo wrote in a brief filed with the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston.
Greig is seeking a new sentencing hearing and a reduction of her sentence to a maximum of two years and nine months. Dana A. Curhan, the lawyer handling Greig’s appeal, has argued that the relatives should be barred from testifying at a new hearing, because they are not victims of Greig’s crimes.
He noted that US District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock allowed them to testify at her June sentencing hearing, even though they had no legal right to speak. “There then followed a number of remarks that [can] best be described as inflammatory,” Curhan wrote, noting that one relative had used an expletive to refer to Greig.
Woodlock said at the time from the bench that while the law did not permit relatives of a crime victim to address the court when the defendant was not charged with directly harming them, he would let the relatives speak as a means to help heal the community, not as a basis for deciding what sentence he would finally impose on Greig.
“It’s not a matter of right,” Woodlock said at the time. “It’s a matter of the right thing.”
In the brief filed Friday, Pirozzolo said that while some remarks were described as “crude” and “cruel,” family members provided relevant information on Greig’s case.
Among the examples Pirozzolo cited was the testimony of Paul McGonagle, whose father was allegedly murdered by Bulger in 1974.
“McGonagle pointed out that Greig — who had been married to his uncle — had been a member of his family, and had betrayed his family by helping Bulger avoid capture for, among other things, the murder of McGonagle’s father,” Pirozzolo wrote.
The issue of the relatives speaking is one of several legal arguments the defense has raised in seeking a new sentencing hearing. Greig, 61, has pleaded guilty to harboring Bulger and is serving her sentence in a federal prison in Minnesota. Bulger, 83, is charged in a sweeping indictment in US District Court in Boston with participating in 19 murders. He is slated to go to trial in June.Milton J. Valencia and Shelley Murphy of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.