Catherine E. Greig’s 8-year-prison sentence was justified, federal court rules

Catherine E. Greig was properly sentenced to eight years in federal prison for helping her long-time love James “Whitey’’ Bulger remain on the run from racketeering and murder charges for 16 years, a federal court ruled today.

“On June 22, 2011, Greig’s many years of harboring Bulger came to an end,’’ Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel. “Our consideration of her claimed errors has similarly reached its conclusion. ... Greig’s sentence stands.’’

Greig and Bulger were captured by the FBI in Santa Monica in 2011, and about one year later Greig pleaded guilty to three charges, the court noted. She pleaded guilty to conspiracy to harbor a fugitive, conspiracy to commit identity fraud, and identity fraud.

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Before she was sentenced, five relatives of the people Bulger is accused of murdering delivered victim impact statements, including Timothy Connors, who referred to the suicide of Greig’s brother and told her, “If I had a sister like you, I would have killed myself, too,” the court noted.

In her appeal, Greig’s attorney argued she should be resentenced at a hearing without the emotionally potent statements from relatives of Bulger’s alleged victims, especially because law enforcement has never accused her of playing a role in the 19 murders.

But the three-judge panel, which included retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter, concluded the US District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock had the discretion to hear from the victims, and that it was appropriate for the relatives to speak to sentencing since Greig’s sister had submitted a letter on her behalf.

“The individuals spoke about what she had done, its effect on them and others, and her character. These statements were particularly relevant given that Greig submitted a letter penned by her sister, which spoke of Greig’s upbringing and background and her caring and kind nature,’’ the court noted.

The panel also found that Woodlock had made it clear from the bench that the sentence he imposed on Greig was not influence by the inflammatory comments of some of those who condemned Greig and her alliance with Bulger.

“It is evident that the judge considered only information that was relevant to Greig and that he ignored any extraneous or inappropriate comments. Furthermore, Greig had plenty of notice that the family members might speak,’’ Thompson wrote.

The appellate court also rejected Greig’s challenge to the calculation used by Woodlock to fashion the sentence, which included an enhancement because of the small arsenal authorities found in the couple’s Santa Monica apartment.

Greig argued “that there was not enough evidence to establish that she knew about the guns or that it was reasonably foreseeable to her that Bulger would possess weapons in furtherance of his flight from the law,’’ the court wrote.

But, the court said, “the largest stash of weapons and cash was found in the wall behind a mirror in a common area of the apartment. Other weapons were out in the open or under the bed in Bulger’s bedroom.’’

Woodlock was right to boost her sentence because “Greig was fully aware that Bulger was wanted for very serious and violent crimes, some involving murder with guns. And she spent sixteen years working to keep Bulger and herself hidden, using false aliases and committing identity fraud,’’ the court concluded.

The court also agreed that Woodlock had the authority to increase Greig’s sentence because she told federal probation officials she had no assets when captured in California. In fact, she had a bank account with more than $100,000, and also owned a Quincy home worth $300,000.

“The judge could not conceive that someone would forget about owning such valuable property or think that it disappeared into thin air,’’ the court noted.

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