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Prosecutors deny witness got special treatment

Through his lawyers, FBI informant James “Whitey” Bulger is now accusing the State Police trooper who relentlessly pursued the South Boston gangster of shielding John Martorano from prosecution after the hit man became an informant against Bulger.

In the latest of a flurry of motions that US District Court Judge Denise J. Casper must address as jury selection plods along, Bulger’s attorneys alleged that State Police Lieutenant Steve Johnson may have protected Martorano from being prosecuted for alleged crimes he committed since 2007.

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“Despite admitting to over twenty murders, Martorano is today a free man,’’ Bulger attorneys J. W. Carney Jr. and Henry Brennan wrote in court papers. “The defense has received information that Martorano has continued his criminal activity since his 2007 release from prison.’’

In another section of the motion, Bulger’s attorneys said they were seeking a letter sent to Assistant US Attorney James Herbert referencing “efforts of Steve Johnson or any other member of the Massachusetts State Police to protect or insulate John Martorano.’’

Martorano has admitted to killing 20 people and served 12 years in prison in return for agreeing to testify against Bulger and Bulger ally, now disgraced FBI agent, John Connolly.

Bulger has also put Johnson on his witness list, a move US Attorney Carmen Ortiz’ office has protested as a thinly veiled attempt by Bulger to punish one of the people most responsible for ending Bulger’s years as a ruthless criminal who participated in 19 murders while working as an informant for the FBI.

Prosecutors credited Johnson of the State Police and Special Agent Dan Doherty of the US Drug Enforcement Administration for devoting 20 years of their law enforcement careers slowly piecing together the case against Bulger, who now faces 32 federal charges, including allegations he was involved in 19 murders.

“Johnson and...Doherty have worked for approximately two decades on this case,’’ prosecutors wrote in a recent filing. In a blatantly tactical attempt to disrupt the government’s trial efforts, Bulger now seeks to exclude both Johnson and Doherty from the courtroom and prevent them from talking to the very witnesses they have dealt with for years.’’

Bulger has pleaded not guilty to all charges and is being held without bail.

The battle over Johnson and Doherty may be one of the issues raised before Judge Casper this morning during a hearing in US District Court in South Boston where jury selection has been underway since Tuesday.

Casper has a number of other issues to resolve, including a Bulger request to ban Boston Globe Columnist Kevin Cullen and reporter Shelley Murphy from covering the trial because he may call them as defense witnesses to impeach prosecution witnesses after they testify.

So far, 858 potential jurors have been called for Bulger’s trial, a high in federal court in Massachusetts, an official said. Jury selection continues Friday.

Milton J. Valencia can be reached at mvalencia@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia. John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.
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