Is the Government Trying Hard Enough to Get Whitey Bulger’s Facilitators?

News reports that a grand jury has been convened to look into who may have facilitated Whitey Bulger’s long escape from justice are encouraging, but in order to get at the truth, the government will have to be more aggressive. Here is what I believe the government should do.

First, it should subpoena all of Whitey Bulger’s relatives who are suspected of having known his whereabouts or having helped him maintain his fugitive status. These include Billy Bulger’s daughter, Mary Hurley, who for a time lived just a few miles away from Whitey’s plain view hideout in Santa Monica, Calif. They also include Billy himself, who admitted talking on the phone with Whitey while he was on the lam. No one expects these relatives to acknowledge their role, if any, in helping Whitey, but by calling them in front of the grand jury, the government can lock in their testimony and subject them to perjury prosecutions in the event that subsequent witnesses prove them to have been lying. This fear may loosen some tongues. If they plead the 5th, they should be given use immunity, which would require them to answer all questions.

The government should also impose use immunity on Catherine Greig, who was Whitey’s housemate and fellow traveler. When given use immunity, she can no longer invoke the privilege of self-incrimination. Nor would she be immunized from prosecution based on the clear evidence the government already has. This tactic would increase the pressure on Greig to cooperate — not against Whitey, but against those who helped Whitey. There is no way that she doesn’t know about at least some of those who actively assisted Whitey in his fugitivity. In any event, it’s a win-win tactic for the government, one that is commonly used in situations of this kind.

According to news reports, the government seems to be focusing its attention on Whitey Bulger’s neighbors in California. That is unlikely to be a fruitful approach because it is not a crime to not recognize a fugitive or even to remain silent and do nothing in the face of recognition. The focus ought to be on Boston and on those closest to Whitey and his family. It is inconceivable that those closest to Whitey were completely unaware of his hideout or completely passive in their desire to see him remain at liberty.

There are many skeptics who doubt that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston is going full throttle to find all of Whitey’s facilitators and collaborators. They worry that some of these targets may be in positions of favor or authority. That is why some people had hoped the case would be handed over to Florida prosecutors, who have already successfully kept John Connolly in prison, or, at the very least, that the case be kept in front of Judge Mark Wolf, who has proved a willingness to turn over every rock regardless of the worms that might be found under it.

If this case ends up with only Whitey Bulger living out his final years in a federal prison and Catherine Greig getting a slap on the wrist, skepticism will ripen into full blown and legitimate doubt that justice has been done, that justice has been seen to be done and that complete justice was even the ultimate goal of this prosecution.

 

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