Defense wins release of some documents from Bulger hearings, hoping to prove he had license to commit crimes

The federal judge who oversaw the court hearings in the late 1990s that exposed James “Whitey” Bulger’s corrupt ties with the FBI agreed today to release some of the confidential documents gathered for those hearings to Bulger’s current lawyers, as they prepare for the notorious gangster’s upcoming trial.

US District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf said he would release only some of the documents and that some of the information in them may be redacted, to protect witnesses and confidential informants. The judge was also weighing whether to force anyone who receives the documents to sign an affidavit declaring that they would not share the materials with anyone.

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Federal prosecutors agreed that some of the documents could be turned over to Bulger’s lawyers under certain conditions, such as, for example, that they not be shared with anyone outside the defense team.

J.W. Carney Jr., Bulger’s lead lawyer, insisted after a hearing today that the documents would help to shed light on Bulger’s history with the FBI and could help to support Bulger’s claims that he received immunity from prosecution for his crimes in exchange for helping the government as an informant.

“I expect the documents will provide further evidence that James Bulger had a blank check to commit any crimes he wanted to in the ‘70s and ‘80s, leading up to the early ‘90s,” Carney said.

Bulger, 83, was one of the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” fugitives until his arrest in June 2011 after more than 16 years on the lam. He had fled the Boston area just before his indictment in 1995, tipped off by his corrupt FBI handler.

In the late 1990s, Wolf held court hearings for Bulger’s co-defendants that eventually exposed that Bulger was an FBI informant even as he allegedly committed crimes. Bulger now faces a federal racketeering indictment accusing him of 19 murders and is slated to go to trial in June in Judge Richard Stearns’s courtroom.