Former mobster James "Whitey" Bulger's request to remove the judge at his upcoming trial is "frivolous and unsubstantiated" and should be dismissed, federal prosecutors said Monday in a court filing.
Their motion also calls "absurd" a related claim by Bulger's attorney that the one-time FBI informant shouldn't be prosecuted on charges he participated in 19 murders because the government promised him immunity for past and future crimes.
Bulger's attorney J.W. Carney Jr. filed a motion last month to remove Judge Richard Stearns because he was a top federal prosecutor during a period when Bulger is accused of having committed crimes with impunity. The defense motion argued that the judge would do what he could to shield his former colleagues and could not be impartial. Carney said he might call the judge as a witness.
Carney had said he would file a motion to dismiss the charges against Bulger, who's 82, because "a representative of the federal government" gave Bulger blanket immunity during the 1970s.
A former Bulger cohort, who also was an FBI informant, used a similar defense, which was rejected by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The cohort is serving a life sentence.
Prosecutors said Bulger "has utterly failed to identify anyone who supposedly promised the defendant immunity from prosecution for committing such crimes as murder. Thus, there is no factual basis for the motion and it should be summarily denied."
They said the claims in the recusal motion "are little more than unsubstantiated speculation."
Bulger was captured in Santa Monica, Calif., last year after 16 years on the run. His trial has been set for next March.
His girlfriend, Catherine Greig, who was captured with him, pleaded guilty last March to conspiracy to harbor a fugitive, identity fraud and conspiracy. She admitted she helped Bulger while he was a fugitive, using false identities, accompanying him to medical appointments and picking up his prescriptions. She was sentenced to eight years in prison.
Prosecutors say Bulger and Greig, who's in her early 60s, posed as married retirees from Chicago and had a stash of more than $800,000 in cash and dozens of weapons in their apartment when they were captured.
This program aired on July 10, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.