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Prosecutors slam ‘Whitey’ Bulger’s immunity claim

Federal prosecutors lashed out Thursday at the defense team for James “Whitey” Bulger, arguing that Bulger’s lawyers continue to make erroneous claims that the notorious gangster was granted immunity from prosecution for his crimes, without showing any evidence.

Prosecutors argued in a court motion Thursday that US District Court Judge Denise J. Casper should reject Bulger’s request for more evidence and should reject a request for her to review the immunity claim. Bulger’s defense team has argued that he will testify at trial that he was granted immunity by the late federal prosecutor Jeremiah T. O’Sullivan.

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US District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns had earlier ruled that Bulger’s team could not raise the immunity claim at trial, saying no one could be granted blanket immunity to carry out crimes such as murder. He invited Bulger’s lawyers to show evidence that ­Bulger was retroactively granted ­immunity for his past crimes.

Bulger, 83, is charged in a federal racketeering case with participating in 19 slayings in the 1970s and 1980s.

Stearns was ordered to recuse himself from the case by the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which agreed with Bulger’s defense claims that the judge, a former federal prosecutor, could have an appearance of a conflict of interest.

Casper, who was subsequently appointed, has indicated she might not revisit the issue, but agreed to hold a hearing, scheduled for Friday. The judge will also consider Bulger’s lawyers’ request for more evidence in the case, specifically evidence that might show Bulger had an immunity agreement.

Prosecutors say no such evidence exists and argue that the defense team is desperately trying to gain access to government files that have no bearing on the immunity claim.

“Simply put, Bulger is not entitled to conduct open-ended fishing expeditions through the government’s files,” prosecutors said, adding, “The government, of course, does not have an obligation to find evidence of something that does not exist.”

Prosecutors also complained that the defense team’s investigators were unprofessional to the family of Kevin Weeks, a witness in the case who has admitted to carrying out crimes with Bulger.

A private investigator for the defense allegedly told Weeks’s son that his father was “a liar.”

But lawyers for Bulger in a filing later Thursday lashed back, saying, “this never happened.” The lawyers argued that the investigator spoke with Weeks’s former wife and that she was emotional about private matters and said she did not have any information about Weeks.

But the investigator said he had no conversation with either of Weeks’s sons.

“The defendant’s investigator made clear that the claim is completely fabricated,” the defense said in a filing, adding that the lawyers queried the investigator, who has been doing such work since 1985, after the claim was made.

“The defense investigator has always been completely professional, diligent, and highly regarded,” the defense maintained.

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