BOSTON — Federal prosecutors on Tuesday moved to drop a 1994 racketeering indictment against mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger in order to focus on a later indictment that charged the newly captured fugitive for his alleged role in 19 murders.
Prosecutors in Boston filed an electronic notice notifying U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf that they are dismissing the 1994 indictment, which charges Bulger with multiple counts of extortion, loan sharking, witness tampering and conspiracy.
The ’94 indictment caused Bulger to go on the lam. He was captured last week in California after 16 years as a fugitive.
In the notice, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz says prosecutors consider a later 1999 indictment charging Bulger with 19 murders the stronger and “more serious” case. He faces life in prison on those charges.
Ortiz says the murder case is stronger “both factually and legally.” The U.S. attorney also cites Bulger’s age in her decision. He is now 81.
“…Given the age of the defendant, there is also a substantial public interest in ensuring that the defendant faces the most serious charges before the end of his natural life.”
The decision to drop the earlier indictment led Judge Wolf later Tuesday to postpone a decision on whether Bulger will have taxpayer-funded attorney. Wolf said he wanted to give Bulger’s provisional attorney 24 hours to see if he objects to the dismissal.
The provisional attorney, Peter Krupp, said he needs time to talk with Bulger about the motion to dismiss the ’94 indictment.
Krupp also accused prosecutors of “forum shopping” by dropping the racketeering charges and taking the case out of Wolf’s courtroom. Wolf conducted hearings about Bulger’s involvement with the FBI in the 1990s.
“Judge Wolf has a long and colorful history with the Whitey Bulger saga,” said Allison Burrows, a Boston defense attorney. “By that I mean with the agents involved with this, with the prosecutors involved with this and with the defendants and the facts surrounding these indictments. And it may just be the prosecutors want a fresh set of eyes on it.”
With reporting from The Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom
– Here’s the notice from Ortiz (on Scribd):