BOSTON Tuesday’s scheduled sentencing of Catherine Greig, for harboring longtime fugitive James “Whitey” Bulger, is shaping up to be a contentious and emotional hearing.
With the trial of Bulger himself a seemingly distant event, Greig has been the hottest of lightening rods ever since her arrest with Bulger last June.
The government describes her as heartless and remorseless. And some families of Bulger’s alleged murder victims have directed their years of frustration in the wait for Bulger’s trial at Greig. They say she deserves no pity, no mercy.
“Under that skin on her, she’s a monster,” said Steven Davis, whose sister, Debbie Davis, was allegedly strangled by Bulger in 1981.
The widow of another alleged Bulger murder victim thinks Greig should get the max.
“Where was she when I was crying?” said Patricia Donahue.
The government wants Greig to serve 10 years. It calls her aid to her fugitive boyfriend one the “most extreme cases” of harboring in history. The prosecution’s rationale in seeking 10 years is in sync with the view offered by Davis.
“He didn’t have a chance out there,” Davis said. “She was his eyes, his ears, his legs. She moved everywhere and did everything she could for him and if those things didn’t occur we would have had justice back in 1995.”
But Greig has no criminal record. She’s never been charged with an act of violence. And aside from unleashing a vicious barrage of F-bombs at the state police who came looking for Bulger back in 1995, Greig’s reputation along the trail was of a kind, thoughtful woman who fed strays — and a grumpy old man.
So, the Probation Department is calling for a sentence of 27 to 33 months, which with time served, could mean Greig would be free by the fall of 2013.
“Remember, she is not the one who committed these ghastly, repetitive homicides,” said Harvey Silverglate, a criminal defense attorney.
In its push for a harsh sentence, the government argues that Greig lived in that Santa Monica apartment with Bulger knowing that he had both guns — 30 of them were recovered — and a stash of $800,000 hidden in the walls. But that raises questions for U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz. If that’s true, why didn’t Ortiz fight to have Greig prosecuted in California on those charges?
“They could get a major felony conviction on her in a trial that lasts maybe two days. They could go after her on state law or federal law in California,” Silverglate said.
A conviction would have given the government a sentence close to or exceeding the 10 years it is now asking for.
“We went on the charges that we could legally substantiate,” Ortiz said back in March when asked why she didn’t push to charge Greig on the guns and money.
Silverglate says it would have been straightforward.
Instead, Ortiz signed a plea agreement in March that bars Greig from being charged on those same offenses that the government now tells the judge she committed and should be punished for.
Why? Silverglate says there’s one reason.
“I think the only reason one can postulate is they want to control what is and is not disclosed at trial,” Silverglate said.
Another battle on Tuesday will be over whether the families of Bulger’s alleged murder victims will be allowed to make impact statements before Greig’s sentencing.
The defense argues they shouldn’t because they’re not victims of Greig’s crime, which is harboring.
The government argues that they should get to speak. And there is irony here too, because the same Department of Justice — that wants the families to be heard now — fought against these same families when they sued the government over its protection of Bulger in his prime.