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All Bulger gang victims should speak at sentencing: prosecutors

Former mob boss and fugitive James "Whitey" Bulger, who was arrested in Santa Monica, California on June 22, 2011 along with his longtime gi
Former mob boss and fugitive James "Whitey" Bulger, who was arrested in Santa Monica, California on June 22, 2011 along with his longtime gi

By Scott Malone

BOSTON (Reuters) - Survivors of all 19 people murdered by James "Whitey" Bulger's gang should be allowed to speak at his sentencing, prosecutors argued on Friday, even if a jury did not find the 84-year-old convicted mobster personally responsible for their deaths.

Bulger, who ran Boston's criminal underworld in the 1970s and '80s while the FBI looked the other way, was found guilty in August of 31 criminal counts including 11 of the 19 murders of which he was accused.

U.S. District Judge Denise Casper will decide on his punishment based on the sentencing hearing scheduled for November 13-14. He faces a possible life sentence.

Federal prosecutors argued that prior convictions of Bulger's gangmates, including Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi and John "The Executioner" Martorano, established that Bulger's "Winter Hill" gang had murdered all 19 victims, making it appropriate for their family members to testify.

"The criminal enterprise was responsible for the murder of all of the victims specified in the indictment regardless of whether the actual shooter or strangler was John Martorano, Stephen Flemmi or James Bulger," prosecutors wrote in a filing in U.S. District Court in Boston.

Bulger's attorneys had previously argued that only survivors of the 11 people the jury found Bulger guilty of murdering should speak at the sentencing hearing.

Bulger's trial this summer capped off one of Boston's longest-running crime dramas. After years of his gang terrorizing Bostonians with daytime shootings and shake-downs of businessmen in the backrooms of bars, Bulger fled the city in December 1994 on a tip from a corrupt FBI agent that arrest was imminent.

Nicknamed "Whitey" for the shock of light-colored hair he had as a youth, Bulger evaded capture for 16 years before law enforcement caught up with him in June 2011, hiding out with girlfriend Catherine Greig in an apartment in Santa Monica, California.

Greig was convicted of harboring a fugitive and her sentencing hearing in June 2012 turned raucous, with the families of Bulger's victims calling her a "cold-hearted criminal" and a "bitch," prompting an apology by the judge.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Gunna Dickson)

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