Catherine Greig will spend the next eight years in federal prison not because she loved James “Whitey” Bulger, but because she helped him evade capture during 16 years on the run. It’s a fair sentence, reflecting her central role in enabling Boston’s most notorious gangster to escape justice for the better part of two decades. As US District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock declared at Greig’s sentencing, “We’re all responsible for what we do. We all make choices.”
Prosecutors sought a 10-year sentence for Greig, 61, calling her crimes an “extreme case of harboring.” The prosecution argued, among other things, that she helped Bulger build false walls in his apartment and obtain identities from other people. Greig’s attorney, Kevin Reddington, urged a sentence of two years and three months for his client, who pleaded guilty in March to harboring a fugitive and two related offenses. Describing her as a victim of love, Reddington likened her devotion to Bulger to a love story worthy of “Shakespeare’s sonnets.”
But this was no tragedy or comedy: It was a conspiracy. She knew he was wanted and helped him to stay on the lam. To the families of Bulger’s victims, there is nothing poetic about Greig’s fealty to the man accused of 19 murders. In brief but emotional victim impact statements, family members told the court of the heartache Bulger caused, and Greig abetted by helping her lover delay justice. Tim Connors, 37, whose father, Edward, was allegedly shot to death by Bulger June 12, 1975, told Greig, “You are as much a criminal as Whitey, and you ought to be handled as such. . . . You are a cold-hearted criminal.”
She is clearly a criminal, but the charges against her were nowhere as severe as those against Bulger. With her sentencing, the focus is now on him and all the murders he is accused of committing. Greig paid a price not for loving too much, but for hiding something heinous. Crime has consequences. They caught up with her first. Bulger has yet to fully face them.