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Court rules Catherine Greig’s sentence justified

Catherine Greig said she was unaware that Bulger had stashed a small arsenal in their apartment.

Catherine Greig said she was unaware that Bulger had stashed a small arsenal in their apartment.

A federal appeals court rejected Friday Catherine Greig’s assertion that she was unfairly sentenced to eight years in prison last year for helping her longtime boyfriend, James “Whitey” Bulger, evade capture for more than 16 years.

The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit concluded that Greig, now 62, had done more than merely shelter Bulger while he was on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list, eluding a sweeping federal racketeering indictment in Boston charging him with participating in 19 murders.

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Greig used false identities, purchased the aging Bulger’s medications, ran daily errands, and paid their bills while they lived in Santa Monica, Calif., for “a whopping 15 years or so,” Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson wrote in a 26-page unanimous opinion by the three-judge panel.

“Her handling of these tasks undoubtedly helped Bulger keep his public outings to a minimum, thus reducing his risk of detection,” Thompson wrote. “When Bulger did have to go out and about, Greig kept the ruse going, assuming a false identity herself and helping Bulger carry on with his.”

Boston lawyer Dana Curhan, who represents Greig, said he expects to talk to Greig next week about whether they will petition the US Supreme Court to hear her case. She is being held at the federal prison in Waseca, Minn., and has five years left to serve on her sentence.

Greig and Bulger, 83, were captured June 22, 2011, in Santa Monica, and the FBI found more than $822,000 and 30 guns, most of it hidden in the walls of the couple’s rent-controlled apartment.

Greig pleaded guilty to conspiracy to harbor a fugitive, conspiracy to commit identity fraud, and identity fraud, and her lawyer recommended a sentence of 27 months. She argued that US District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock abused his discretion by allowing the relatives of some of Bulger’s alleged victims to speak during her sentencing hearing last June.

She also contended the judge was wrong to boost her sentence based on his findings that she must have known Bulger had guns in their apartment and that she lied to the court about her assets, which included a bank account containing more than $135,000 and a Quincy house.

The appeals court rejected all of her arguments.

In its ruling, the appeals court found that the judge had the discretion to hear from the families of Bulger’s alleged victims, and it was relevant since Woodlock also received a letter from Greig’s sister that described her as caring and kind. “The individuals spoke about what she had done, its effect on them and others, and her character,” Thompson wrote.

Two of those relatives lashed out at Greig, calling her names and hurling insults. But the appeals court noted that Woodlock made clear during the sentencing hearing that he found their inflammatory comments inappropriate and did not consider them when deciding Greig’s punishment.

Greig said she was unaware that Bulger had stashed a small arsenal in their apartment and should not be given a stiffer sentence. But the appeals court concluded there was ample evidence that Greig knew about the guns or should have known.

There were plaster marks covering the holes that had been cut in the walls to stash some of the guns.

Jury selection is slated to begin in Bulger’s trial on June 6 in US District Court.

In a related matter on Friday, Bulger’s lawyers filed a motion opposing a request by prosecutors to conduct criminal background checks of prospective jurors.

The defense said potential jurors “may experience this intrusion as a harassing investigation.”

Shelley Murphy can be reached at shmurphy@globe.com.
Follow her on Twitter
@Shelleymurph
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