Federal prosecutors renewed their attack Tuesday on James “Whitey” Bulger’s claim that he had immunity from prosecution for crimes including murder, calling the gangster’s contention “fantastical,” “absurd,” and incoherent in court papers.
“The defendant has failed to provide any affidavit or evidence to support the absurd notion that he entered into a legally binding agreement with [deceased former federal prosecutor Jeremiah] O’Sullivan that immunized the defendant in perpetuity for any crime the defendant chose to commit,” prosecutors wrote in a brief filed in federal court in Boston.
“Even if one were to indulge the defendant’s fantastical claim, such an agreement would have been void . . . as against public policy.”
Bulger’s lead attorney, J.W. Carney Jr., fired back in a brief phone interview.
“If the immunity claim is so absurd, why are the prosecutors opposing our getting access to documents that we believe will corroborate our defense?” Carney said.
Prosecutors contend there are no documents that support Bulger’s immunity claim.
The prosecutors’ brief was filed one day after Bulger’s attorneys said in court filings that he is not asserting a license to kill by claiming O’Sullivan granted him federal immunity from prosecution.
Rather, defense lawyers said, the agreement only barred federal prosecutors in Massachusetts from charging Bulger criminally, as long as he kept up his end of the deal. But the pact did not bar state prosecutors from charging the gangster, according to his lawyers.
They have not said what Bulger, 83, agreed to do in exchange for federal immunity. He denies ever being an informant, despite evidence from prior court proceedings that he passed on information to the FBI for years.
On Tuesday, prosecutors scoffed at Bulger’s clarification of the immunity claim. “His mysterious contention that he has never claimed ‘prospective immunity’ [while seemingly claiming that his agreement covered the commission of subsequent crimes] illustrates the incoherence of his own claim,” prosecutors said.
Bulger’s lawyers said in a filing Monday that prosecutors, by suggesting that he claims a license to kill and prospective immunity, are engaged in the “continuing practice of sensationalistic pandering to the media.”
Bulger, scheduled to stand trial in June, is asking US District Court Judge Denise J. Casper to allow him to present his immunity defense to the jury.
Travis Andersen can be reached at email@example.com.