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    Judge sentences ‘unapologetic’ Catherine Greig to 21 months

    FILE - This undated file photo provided by the U.S. Marshals Service shows Catherine Greig, longtime girlfriend of Whitey Bulger, captured with Bulger in Santa Monica, Calif., in 2011. Greig is serving an eight-year prison term for helping Bulger avoid capture, and faces additional prison time after pleading guilty to contempt in February 2016 for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating who else may have helped Bulger. (U.S. Marshals Service via AP, File)
    US Marshals Service via AP/file
    Catherine Greig.

    James “Whitey” Bulger’s longtime girlfriend, Catherine Greig, was sentenced Thursday to 21 months in prison for contempt of court by a judge who called her devotion to the murderous gangster “a twisted version of loyalty.”

    US District Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV said Greig, 65, who already is serving an eight-year prison term for helping Bulger evade capture for 16 years, was “openly defiant and unapologetic” when refusing to testify before a federal grand jury investigating whether others helped the pair when they were fugitives.

    In response to claims that Greig’s only crime was being loyal to the man she loved, Saylor said it was “hard to imagine a less worthy object of love and affection” than the 86-year-old Bulger, a “monster” who was convicted in 2013 of participating in 11 murders in the 1970s and 1980s while running a sprawling criminal organization.

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    Greig, a slender gray-haired woman dressed in a navy prison uniform, declined the judge’s offer to speak. She must serve the 21 months after she wraps up her current sentence in March 2019, which means she is not expected to be released until late 2020.

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    The sentence falls between the recommendations by the defense, which insisted Greig should serve no more than six months on the new charge, and prosecutors, who argued she should serve another 37 months.

    Outside the courthouse, Greig’s attorney, Kevin J. Reddington, said Greig was not defiant, “She’s just a woman that disagreed obviously with the judge’s assessment of Mr. Bulger.”

    Greig still doesn’t believe Bulger is guilty of all the crimes he was convicted of, according to Reddington, has “no regrets” about the time she spent with him and “still thinks he’s the guy she fell in love with.”

    The family members of several of Bulger’s victims who attended Thursday’s sentencing said they were disappointed that Greig wasn’t sentenced to more time in prison and believed she was protecting people who helped the pair on the run.

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    “She has no sympathy from me whatsoever,” said Patricia Donahue, whose husband, Michael, was shot to death by Bulger in 1982 while giving a ride home to a friend who was cooperating with authorities against Bulger. “It’s not enough time.”

    US Attorney Carmen Ortiz said Greig “had complete control over her own fate” and her repeated defiance when faced with a court order to testify before the grand jury cost her more time in prison.

    Harold H. Shaw, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston office, said Greig’s actions “adversely impacted the government’s efforts to seek answers for Bulger’s victims, and hold accountable anyone who may have helped them during their sixteen years as fugitives.”

    Bulger, a longtime FBI informant, fled Boston shortly before his January 1995 racketeering indictment and was joined on the run several months later by Greig, a former dental hygienist who had shared a home with him in Quincy.

    Bulger was one of the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted when the couple were captured in June 2011 living in a rent-controlled apartment in Santa Monica, Calif.

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    Greig used false identities, purchased Bulger’s medications, ran daily errands, and paid the couple’s bills.

    In 2012, Greig pleaded guilty to conspiracy to harbor a fugitive, conspiracy to commit identity fraud, and identity fraud. She was sentenced to eight years and fined $150,000.

    Bulger is serving a life sentence at a federal penitentiary in Florida for murder, racketeering, extortion, drug trafficking, and other charges.

    In 2014, Greig was found in civil contempt for refusing to testify before the grand jury investigating whether others helped the couple while they were fugitives, and nine months were added to her sentence. She pleaded guilty to the criminal contempt charge in February.

    Greig was promised immunity, which meant she could not be prosecuted as long as she testified truthfully, yet refused to answer questions about whether anyone sent money while she and Bulger were on the run or provided other assistance that helped them avoid capture.

    Assistant US Attorney Mary B. Murrane, who urged the judge to sentence Greig to 37 months, argued that Greig “was consistent, dogged, and tireless in her efforts to obstruct justice” and has still not accepted that she made the wrong choice by refusing to testify.

    Reddington argued that it was unfair to punish Greig with a harsh sentence when Bulger’s former associates who participated in murders were given leniency in exchange for cooperating with the government and “dirty FBI agents” were never indicted for accepting gifts and bribes from Bulger.

    Saylor noted that Bulger’s former associates cooperated and led investigators to the secret graves of some of Bulger’s victims and helped convict the gangster and his corrupt former handler.

    “The government has the right, if not the obligation, to seek the truth,” said Saylor, adding that Greig’s refusal to testify stymied that effort. “You have to believe that people who do not tell the truth . . . or refuse to speak should suffer the consequences.”

    Shelley Murphy can be reached at shelley.murphy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shelleymurph.