BOSTON Catherine Greig, who spent 16 years harboring the notorious fugitive James “Whitey” Bulger, was sentenced Tuesday to eight years in federal prison.
In imposing a sentence close to what the prosecution wanted, Judge Douglas Woodlock said there has never before been a case of harboring a fugitive as extreme as this one.
At times the witness impact statements were raw, crude, and cruel — the pain cutting.
“Catherine, you are a dirty bitch,” Steven Davis said to a packed but quiet courtroom.
As the brother of a woman Bulger allegedly murdered, Davis was allowed to address Greig. The refined Judge Woodlock gently chastised Davis.
But the weight of his hammer came down on Greig.
“I was very pleased with the eight years. Good to see a judge finally, you know, put the hammer down a little bit,” said Thomas Donahue. Prosecutors say Bulger murdered Donahue’s father.
Though Greig was never charged with an act of violence and had no criminal record, they wanted her to pay the price for helping Bulger.
“If the max was 10 years, I wanted 10. If it was 20, I wanted 20. Whatever the max was is what I wanted,” said Patricia Donahue, Thomas’ mother.
The line of argument that persuaded the judge was the same as the line used by U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz after the sentencing.
“This was not just a mere harboring case. This is a serious case where Catherine Greig committed serious crimes,” Ortiz said. “She helped and protected and concealed a fugitive.”
Bulger is charged with committing 19 murders, making this an extreme case of harboring, prosecutors claimed.
Though the government chose not to charge Greig with gun possession, the judge cited those 30 weapons found in the Santa Monica apartment where she and Bulger lived in ratcheting her sentence upward.
“She was fully knowledgeable about what those weapons were,” Judge Woodlock said.
Fighting against momentum, defense attorney Kevin Reddington pleaded for leniency, calling Greig a prisoner of love.
“She was and is in love with Mr. Bulger,” Reddington said. “And she’s certainly a person who does not regret what she did in living her life with him. As I said, he’s the love of her life.”
In the courtroom, Greig faced the judge and never once turned to see the audience. The cliffs of her cheekbones dropped into a hollow face — stern, pale and intent.
“Thirty-seven years ago today,” Tim Connors told Greig in his impact statement, “Whitey Bulger murdered my father. If I had a sister like you, I would have killed myself too.”
Greig gasped with pain at the reference to her brother, who had committed suicide long ago. She looked to the ceiling, her hand came up to cover her face then she regained composure and showed little reaction to the rest of the condemnations.
“She’s in love with the guy… She doesn’t believe for one minute that he is guilty or culpable of these horrible crimes.”
Reddington says Greig has no regrets.
“She’s in love with the guy. If she could be with him right now she would be with him. And she doesn’t believe for one minute that he is guilty or culpable of these horrible crimes,” Reddington said. “She doesn’t buy that, doesn’t believe it and absolutely stands by her man.”
In the courtroom, Paul McGonagle tried to get Greig’s attention. He was her own nephew and the son of a man Bulger allegedly murdered then buried at Tenean Beach in Dorchester. His remains were dug up by State Police 26 years later.
“Catherine Greig betrayed our family,” McGonagle told the court. “Once a member of our family, [Greig] enabled the killer of my father to stay free.”
Greig closed her eyes and showed the audience and McGonagle the back of her head.
“Ms. Greig was no victim, she made choices of her own free will,” U.S. Attorney Ortiz said outside the courthouse. “So as a result, now she is paying the price.”
The judge used almost the same words when he imposed sentence.
“There is a price to be paid,” Judge Woodlock said, and Greig nodded in assent.
During a break in court, Reddington talked about a stray cat Catherine had found in California. I asked a question about the cat and Reddington went over to ask Greig. Her face lit up. She was talking about her other love: stray animals.
A few moments later, when the judge came back and offered her a chance to address the court or the families of the murder victims, Greig had nothing to say.