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Victims’ kin fight bail for Greig

Testify at hearing to years of agony; defense speaks of Bulger’s sway

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By Maria Cramer and Milton J. Valencia
Globe Staff / July 14, 2011

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One by one, the relatives of James “Whitey’’ Bulger’s alleged murder victims stepped to the microphone - some fighting tears, others trying to control shaky voices - and described the anguish they felt during his 16 years on the lam with his longtime girlfriend, Catherine Greig.

They testified during a federal court hearing in South Boston yesterday to determine whether Greig should be released on bail. Many families of the 19 victims have spoken to reporters, but yesterday was the first time they were able to stand in a court of law and force the woman accused of helping Bulger to elude police for so long to listen to them.

“She does not deserve that freedom,’’ Steven Davis, the 53-year-old brother of Debra Davis, said as Bulger’s longtime companion sat less than 15 feet away. “In my eyes, she’s an evil woman.’’

Nearly everyone in the courtroom, including the prosecutors, turned to watch their testimony. But Greig kept her gaze forward and eyes focused on the front of the courtroom.

US Magistrate Judge Jennifer C. Boal must now decide whether to release Greig, a 60-year-old former dental hygienist, on bail, which could possibly allow her to live at a house she still owns in Quincy.

She would have to wear a monitoring bracelet while she awaits trial on charges of harboring a fugitive. The alternative is to deny her bail and keep her in custody.

Greig’s lawyer, Kevin Reddington, described her yesterday as educated, caring, and under the control of Bulger. “Her only crime is a crime of passion, falling in love,’’ he said.

But prosecutors asked Boal to consider the years she spent with Bulger as the two fled from state to state, creating false identification cards and secreting money. In their Santa Monica, Calif., apartment, where authorities arrested the couple on June 22, police found guns, more than $822,000 in cash, and books on manufacturing fake identities.

“The defendant has demonstrated an ability to remain a fugitive,’’ Assistant US Attorney James Herbert said. “She is not simply a traveling companion. She is a willing, active participant in their joint efforts’’ to elude police.

Boal’s decision could take from a day to several weeks, according to legal specialists.

When considering bail, a judge might look at the strength of the government’s case, possible penalties - Greig would face a maximum of five years on the harboring charge - the defendant’s criminal record, and her ties to the community, either through her family or personal property. All of those factors would help a judge determine if a defendant is a flight risk.

Boal “strikes me as particularly smart and conscientious,’’ said Robert Sheketoff, a Boston criminal defense lawyer. “I would expect her to promptly make a rational decision.’’

Reddington has been trying to show that Greig left Boston with Bulger at a time when he had not been accused of murder and was still something of a “hero’’ in South Boston.

In a surprising development, Reddington called Kevin Weeks, Bulger’s former associate, to the stand and asked him to describe the reputation Bulger had in 1995, when he and Greig fled. Weeks agreed with Reddington that many at the time perceived Bulger as a generous man who helped the needy.

“The people who were criminals, who were in our circle, had a different outlook and knew what he was capable of,’’ Weeks said. “I don’t know what [Greig] knew as far as his reputation. She probably saw one side, and other people saw another side.’’

But FBI Special Agent Michael Carazza suggested in his testimony yesterday that Greig always knew Bulger was dangerous.

In Santa Monica, Greig talked to her hair stylist about relationships and confided that she liked “bad boys,’’ Carazza said.

“She knew her husband was a bad boy when she married him, but he has mellowed out,’’ Carazza said Greig told her hairdresser.

Timmy Connors - son of Edward Connors, who was killed in 1975 - noted the many times Greig called her sister, Margaret McCusker, while she was on the run.

Anyone who testifies to Greig’s kindness, Connors said, “is guilty of perjury.’’

“She could have eased our pain if she had chosen to divert one of those phone calls to her sister to law enforcement,’’ Connors said.

Boal said that under federal statute, victims’ families have a right to speak at any point. But she said she would need to determine if in this case, the relatives qualify as Greig’s victims before she could decide whether she should consider their statements in her decision.

Boal gave each family member three minutes to speak.

Davis said he had not slept the night before, wrestling with what to say. His wife tried to help by neatly writing down a few paragraphs for him.

But when it was his turn, Davis said he scrapped the note and went with what popped into his mind.

“I can’t put into words in three minutes the suffering of the last 16 years,’’ Davis said, glaring at Greig. “My sister can’t stand here today and tell anyone how she feels, because her life was taken away by the man [Greig] loved.’’

Thomas Donahue, whose father Michael Donahue was gunned down in 1982, had to stop several times to calm his rage and grief.

“While she was there tinting her hair . . . we laid awake at night, sweating from the nightmares and shedding tears,’’ he said, his jaw tightening. “If you let her out of here to go live with her sister, it’s a complete slap to the victims of Whitey Bulger.’’

Christopher McIntyre - brother of John McIntyre, whom Bulger allegedly tortured and killed in 1984 - simply asked Boal not to let Greig stay in Quincy.

Greig’s home in Squantum is “less than 100 yards from my mother’s front yard,’’ McIntyre said.

“If there is another address, let her bail to that,’’ he implored. “But to Squantum? She can’t bail to Squantum.’’

Maria Cramer can be reached at mcramer@globe.com. Milton Valencia can be reached at mvalencia@globe.com.