James “Whitey” Bulger, who is facing trial for 19 murders after spending 16 years on the run from authorities, can’t claim he had an immunity deal with the U.S. Justice Department before he went underground, a judge ruled.
U.S. District Judge Denise Casper in Boston today denied Bulger’s bid to tell jurors he negotiated immunity in the 1980s from a federal prosecutor who is now deceased.
“Bulger’s claimed immunity is not a defense to the charged crimes to be presented to the jury at trial,” she said in a 31- page ruling. “The issue of immunity is not an issue for the jury.”
Bulger, 83, said he won immunity from former prosecutor Jeremiah O’Sullivan, who led organized-crime prosecutions decades ago. O’Sullivan said during a congressional investigation that he once excluded Bulger as a defendant in a mob prosecution charging his gang with fixing horse races.
The judge said Bulger needs to present proof of his immunity claim to the court. His attorneys argued that the jury could review the claim.
“No showing has been made here and Bulger has declined to make a further proffer to support his contention,” the judge wrote.
His trial is scheduled to begin in June. He’s charged with committing 19 murders as part of a sprawling racketeering conspiracy conducted while he was an FBI informant. He denies he was ever an informant.
Prosecutors argued Bulger’s immunity claim was a fantasy. No Justice Department official can confer what amounts to “a license to kill,” the government said in court filings.
Casper’s ruling mirrors findings by a previous judge, who was ordered by an appeals court to step aside after the defense asked for his removal because he was a top federal prosecutor in the 1980s.
Bulger was found in Santa Monica, California, in 2011 after hiding out as a fugitive for 16 years.
Bulger’s attorney J.W. Carney Jr. wasn’t immediately available for comment today.
The case is U.S. v. Bulger, 99-10371, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).
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