US attorney comments on Bulger request for immunity; says Flemmi tried same tactic, lost

A day after notorious gangster James “Whitey” Bulger claimed an immunity agreement shielded him from charges for a host of crimes, US Attorney Carmen Ortiz said today that informants are not necessarily protected from prosecution.

“Being an informant in a criminal case does not in and of itself immunize you from crimes,” she said.

She also said that former Bulger associate Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi had tried the same legal tactic, taking his claims all the way to the First US Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, which ruled against him.

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She said that “regardless of what representations [Bulger] may claim law enforcement made, there’s a particular case in the First Circuit, the Flemmi case, in which that same defense, I believe, was asserted a number of years ago. And the First Circuit held that being an informant, in and of itself, and certain representations by law enforcement agents does not provide sufficient or adequate immunity,” she said.

“I do want to say that there are going to be a number of allegations as we prepare for trial and you really have to wait and see how it plays out in court because that’s where I believe the facts will be borne out,” she also cautioned.

Bulger was for decades a fearsome figure in Boston’s underworld, allegedly committing 19 murders, while at the same time serving as a prized informant with a cozy relationship with the FBI. Tipped off by a corrupt FBI agent, Bulger fled the area in 1995 and eluded a worldwide manhunt until he and girlfriend Catherine Greig were arrested last year in Santa Monica, Calif.

His attorneys revealed Monday that he plans to seek dismissal of the indictment against him because of the immunity agreement he claims he had with the government.

“The immunity agreement fully protects the defendant from prosecution for all of the crimes currently under indictment,” the attorneys said in a filing in US District Court in Boston.

Also Monday, a federal magistrate judge agreed to push back Bulger’s trial date from November to March 4.

Ortiz said she thought the rescheduling of the trial was “a wise decision,” considering defense attorneys’ pleas for more time to review and analyze the evidence.

“The documents and the evidence here are voluminous. ... At the end of the day, we want a trial in which the defense has had an adequate time to prepare, as well as the government, and ... everyone’s rights are properly observed. I don’t think that a four-month continuance is that unbearable,” she said.