UPDATE: Bulger Pleads 'Not Guilty' to 19 Murder Charges
Length of trial expected to be about four weeks.
Updated at 5:25 p.m.
Hunched over and in handcuffs, James "Whitey" Bulger quietly pled not guilty to 32 charges, including 19 counts of murder today during his 2 p.m. arraignment in U.S. District Court.
The case of the alleged mobster continues in the John Joseph Moakley U.S. Courthouse on Sept. 14 for a status hearing. A trial is expected to last about four weeks.
Federal prosecutors dropped 24 other charges, which included multiple counts of extortion, racketeering and threats, to focus on the murder charge that could put him away for life if convicted.
Bulger, 81, wore an orange jumpsuit, glasses and sneakers as he stood in the courtroom.
"A lot has happened over the years since he's been running around Boston," retired Massachusetts State Police Col. Tom Foley said after the arraignment. After investigating Bulger for years, he said he's glad we can finally bring him to justice.
"Seeing him walk in in handcuffs, a broken man, was some satisfaction to me, and hopefully to some of the families," Foley said.
Prosecutors said they expect that the trial will last about four weeks with between 30-40 witnesses called. But outside the courthouse, defense attorney J.W. Carney was less confident on a time frame, saying he has seen "no piece of paper at all" from the government to put together a discovery.
"The prosecution has had 20 years to prepare for the trial," he said during a press conference. "I've been on the case for five days."
Preparing for the Defense
Judge Marianne Bowler also denied a request from Carney asking that his partner Janice Bassil be added as a co-counsel in the defense.
U.S. taxpayers will also pay for Bulger's defense. Carney was appointed to defend the alleged crime boss after Bulger said he couldn't afford his own attorney because authorities seized all his money. Law enforcement officials impounded more than $800,000 in cash from his Santa Monica, Calif. apartment when he was caught on June 22.
Carney is welcome to seek assistance from other lawyers, but officially appointing an another attorney could exceed the maximum compensation of $97,000 that's allowed for a felony case, Judge Bowler said. Anything over that amount requires additional approval.
Bowler left the door open for an appointment in the future if Carney and his firm are "unable to deal with the magnitude of the case."
Carney said he has 13 lawyers, including Bassil, who will be involved in the defense, and called the maximum compensation a "statutory cap overwritten by a waiver."
"She will be fully my co-council on trial," he said. "There's no question about it."
A Fair Trial
Carney would not comment on Bulger's mental state or family involvement, but described him as "smart," having an "excellent memory" and said he has been "exceptionally courteous and respectful to me."
Although it's a high-profile case, at this point, Carney said it was "premature" to think about moving the trial out of Boston and believes they'll be able to find a fair jury.
"I believe a person of this notoriety can get a fair trail," he said. "And I intend to see that he does."
Bulger and his longtime companion Catherine Greig - who was charged with harboring a fugitive - were apprehended after living in hiding for 16 years. The alleged mobster, former head of Boston's notorious Winter Hill Gang, and FBI informant from South Boston disappeared in the mid-1990s and became one of the FBI's most wanted fugitives.
His corrupt relationship with FBI agents proved to be an embarrassment to the agency, and he fled when an agent leaked to him word of an impending indictment. When Bulger was caught, the FBI was offering a $2 million reward for information that led to his capture.