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June 6, 2013

Bulger attorney: Allow comment against key witness during trial

BOSTON — A lawyer for reputed Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger argued Wednesday that jurors should be allowed to hear statements that government prosecutors made about a star witness against Bulger, including that he’s “a sick individual” and not credible.

Attorney J.W. Carney Jr. said the statements made during past litigation about former Bulger cohort Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi are crucial to helping the jury decide Flemmi’s reliability. Flemmi and another star witness, Kevin Weeks, have both said that Bulger shot John McIntyre, a man with Gloucester ties, in the head.

“It can only be fair that the jury hear how the government characterized their witness and their evidence,” Carney told U.S. District Judge Denise Casper during a hearing.

But prosecutor Fred Wyshak said that the statements are either inadmissible or irrelevant and that Carney just wants to use them as a shock tactic.

The judge did not immediately rule on the request.

Prosecutors say Bulger, 83, is a former leader of the Winter Hill Gang and FBI informant against the New England Mafia, the gang’s main rival.

Bulger fled Boston in 1994 and remained one of the nation’s most wanted fugitives until he was captured with his girlfriend in Santa Monica, Calif., in 2011. He has pleaded not guilty to participating in 19 murders, including McIntyre’s, and his attorneys deny he was an informant.

Jury selection is underway in Bulger’s trial, and opening statements are scheduled for June 12.

On Wednesday, Carney argued the statements the government made about Flemmi cannot be shielded from a jury.

In a related motion filed last week, Carney mentions a government brief in a mid-1990s case against Mafia soldier “Cadillac” Frank Salemme, a former Winter Hill Gang ally. In the brief, prosecutors say Flemmi’s “credibility is highly suspect” and his testimony in the Salemme case was “saturated with inconsistencies and fabrications.”

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