Notorious gangster James “Whitey” Bulger’s taxpayer-funded defense team billed the court more than $2.6 million over the past two years, and those costs will climb because they do not include lawyers’ fees and expenses from July and August while Bulger’s federal racketeering trial was underway, according to court records.
Bulger’s lawyers issued a statement Friday saying he offered to plead guilty to all charges in exchange for leniency for the girlfriend who helped him evade capture for more than 16 years, but prosecutors spurned his offer, resulting in the expensive eight-week trial in US District Court in Boston that ended with his conviction last month.
Defense lawyers J.W. Carney Jr. and Hank Brennan said Bulger agreed to plead guilty to all charges, including some he did not commit, and to serve life in prison.
“All he sought in return was mercy toward Catherine Greig, the woman who went with him to Santa Monica solely because she loved him,” the lawyers said. He wanted Greig, his loyal companion, to serve only a year in prison.
“That was not enough for the United States Attorney’s Office,” Bulger’s lawyers said. “This decision resulted in the trial, and the enormous expenditure of federal funds for the prosecution, defense, and United States Marshals.”
Bulger, 84, was convicted on Aug. 12 of 31 of 32 counts in a sweeping racketeering indictment. Jurors also found he participated in 11 of the 19 murders he was accused of committing.
Assistant US Attorney Brian T. Kelly, part of the team that prosecuted Bulger, fired back, saying that Bulger’s “brutal crimes caused this trial, and like any defendant, he could have pled guilty without a plea agreement at any time.”
Kelly declined to comment on Bulger’s failed plea negotiations, but said, “It seems to me the defense lawyers should have some mercy on the taxpayers with their billing practices.”
Bulger, who faces life in prison, is scheduled to be sentenced in November. Greig, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to harbor a fugitive and identity fraud charges, was sentenced last year to eight years in prison.
Bulger, who was captured along with Greig in Santa Monica, Calif., in June 2011 after more than 16 years on the run, said he could not afford to pay for a lawyer because the government had seized all his assets, including $822,000 found hidden in the walls of the rent-controlled apartment where he was hiding. The government is seeking to distribute that money among the families of Bulger’s victims.
In Friday’s statement responding to the defense’s legal fees, Bulger’s laywers said: “The greater cost was to the families of the victims. They had to wait additional years for the case to be resolved and see that the prosecution could not even prove eight of the 19 murders.”
Tim Connors, whose father Eddie Connors was gunned down by Bulger in a Dorchester telephone booth in 1975, said it was absurd for the defense to suggest that they were concerned about Bulger’s victims.
“If [Bulger] was that concerned about putting us through the delays, he should have came back sooner, he should have turned himself in,” Connors said.
Connors said he was unaware that Bulger had offered to plead guilty to the charges in exchange for leniency for Greig, but said he would have opposed a shorter prison term for her.
“Even though she never killed anybody, she’s just as much as a criminal as he was,” Connors said. “She knew what he was wanted for, and she knew what he did.”
A court memorandum to US District Judge Denise J. Casper, who presided over Bulger’s trial, indicates that between June 24, 2011, and June 30, 2013, the “grand total cost” of Bulger’s representation was $2,671,331.77. Most of the money was paid to Bulger’s attorneys, who were paid the court-appointed rate of $125 an hour.
Carney billed the court $44,650 for representing Bulger in 2011, $1.1 million in 2012, and $976,162 between January and June this year. Those fees cover the costs of Carney and other attorneys in his firm who worked on the case. Brennan billed the court $109,500 for 2011 and 2012 and $205,437 between January and June of this year.
Other costs included $139,098 for paralegal services, $62,135 for investigative services, $36,159 for transcripts, $3,373 for computer forensics, $1,851 for computer hardware and software, $2,798 for experts, and $1,510 for duplication services.
The memo said Carney and Brennan have yet to submit bills for July and August. Bulger's lawyers said their bills “reflect the number of hours it took the defense team to review and digest over 400,000 pages of evidence.”