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After 16 years on the run, fugitive crime boss James "Whitey" Bulger finally has returned to his hometown of Boston.
Bulger, appearing in federal court Friday afternoon, two days after his arrest in California, asked for a public defender. But prosecutors objected, citing $800,000 found in the former mobster's Santa Monica apartment.
"Can you afford an attorney?" the federal attorney asked.
"No. I could if you give me my money back," Bulger responded.
Bulger was represented by attorney Peter Krupp on Friday. The federal magistrate did not immediately rule on the request. Prosecutors asked that Bulger be held without bond. Bulger waived his right to a detention hearing on Friday, but Krupp said he may ask for a hearing later.
Bulger's brother William, the former state Senate president, was seated in the second row and smiled at him. The defendant mouthed the word "Hi" and his brother smiled back.
Bulger, wearing jeans and a white shirt under a white unbuttoned shirt, looked tan and fit and walked with a slight hunch. After his second proceeding, federal marshals cuffed Bulger and escorted him out of the courtroom.
Bulger's longtime girlfriend, Catherine Greig, also appeared before the federal judge on Friday. She also requested a public defender, which the federal prosecutor objected to, calling Greig a flight risk.
— Here are the indictments against James "Whitey" Bulger:
The return to Boston of the fugitive gangster James "Whitey" Bulger after 16 years on the run was met Friday with high security at a courthouse not even built when he fled the city and curious spectators who don't remember the heyday of his alleged criminal enterprise.
Now 81, Bulger arrived at the waterfront courthouse in South Boston Friday afternoon. Several black SUVs with a police motorcycle escort paused briefly in front of before proceeding to a rear entrance, where occupants in some of the SUVs exited out of view.
Bulger appeared briefly in federal court Thursday in Los Angeles, agreeing to waive extradition. He was released from downtown's federal Metropolitan Detention Center into the custody of U.S. marshals early Friday, said jail spokesman Steve Gagliardi.
In Boston, the courthouse security included at least two Coast Guard boats, one state police vessel and a police boat patrolling the harbor directly behind the building.
One of the people in court will be a brother who was once one of the most powerful politicians in Massachusetts. William Bulger, the former state senate president, declined to comment when he arrived Friday afternoon. He referred to his earlier statement expressing sympathy for the "families hurt by the calamitous circumstances" of his brother's case.
Bulger's arrest appeared to end a long, frustrating manhunt that had embarrassed the FBI and raised questions about its efforts to find one of its most wanted fugitives.
But his capture could become a new chapter in an old scandal for the Boston FBI and others.
If Bulger decides to cut a deal with prosecutors, he could implicate an untold number of local, state and federal law enforcement officials, according to investigators who built a racketeering indictment against Bulger before he fled in 1995.
"If he starts to talk, there will be some unwelcome accountability on the part of a lot of people inside law enforcement," said retired Massachusetts state police Maj. Tom Duffy. "Let me put it this way: I wouldn't want my pension contingent on what he will say at this point."
Bulger is charged in connection with 19 murders. He had lived in Santa Monica for 15 of the last 16 years, according to his landlord.
Neighbors in Santa Monica were stunned to learn they had been living in the same building as the man who was the model for Jack Nicholson's ruthless crime boss in the 2006 Martin Scorsese movie "The Departed."
Bulger's flight in early 1995 allegedly came after a tip from former Boston FBI Agent John Connolly Jr., who was convicted of racketeering and obstruction of justice in 2002 for protecting Bulger and his cohort Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi from prosecution. Both Bulger and Flemmi were FBI informants who ratted out members of their main rivals, the New England Mob.
Margaret Chaberek, who grew up in Bulger's home base of South Boston, arrived at the courthouse Friday hours before his scheduled appearance. She was a child during the height of Bulger's career but found out in later news reports about the allegations against him.
"I'm here to see him get what he deserves," she said.
Brian and Ina Corcoran of suburban Braintree came to the courthouse on a day off to see a piece of history. Brian said he grew up in Boston and has always been fascinated by Bulger. Ina Corcoran is Canadian and didn't at first understand the fascination.
"It's a great story," she said as she and her husband sat on one of the few benches outside the fifth floor courtroom not taken over by reporters. She compared it to being in the courtroom with the notorious 20th century Chicago mobster Al Capone.
"If you could go back and time to be in that courtroom, wouldn't you?" she said.
With reporting from The Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom
This program aired on June 24, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.
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