In case you missed it, James “Whitey” Bulger (hereinafter, “Whitey”), the long-sought reputed mob boss of Boston, was arrested and brought back home last week. Home for Whitey was South Boston. Standing there now, of course, is Boston’s Federal Court…which promises to house a great deal of the rest of his life. He is now in his 80’s and charged with many federal crimes.
Whitey’s arrest was difficult to miss last week. What was easy to miss, I suppose, were nasty words like “alleged” when discussing his past. Leave it to a die-hard experienced criminal defense attorney like me to notice. I can be a bother that way.
Anyway, Whitey’s history, whatever the actual truth turns out to be, is , and will continue to be, fodder for a host of blogs like this one. In fact, I can see focusing on his story(ies) all week this week. We’ll see.
Leave it to Whitey, though, he returned throwing the government for a loop right off.
You see, Whitey is believedto have access to all kinds of money. He was also arrested in possession of a great deal of money. The government, of course, believes that this money must be ill-gotten gains and so contends that he should not have access to it. Indeed, in these types of cases, monies are routinely seized by the prosecution as they bring an action for forfeiture of the funds.
A criminal defendant in this country, particularly when facing the possibility of incarceration, has the right to an attorney. We treasure this right so highly that, if a defendant is found to be indigent, unable to afford his/her own lawyer, one is provided. When this topic came up last week during one of two hearings for Whitey, he indicated that the only way he could afford his own attorney was if the government gave him access to the money they seized.
The government objected, claiming that Whitey had access to other funds and that the monies seized were to be forfeited.
The court appointed a temporary lawyer and US District Court Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf has now Ordered said temporary lawyer and federal prosecutors to try to reach an agreement about whether Whitey is entitled to a public defender by the end of the day today.
Both sides are expected to file memoranda and affidavits concerning Whitey’s finances. A hearing is scheduled on the subject on Wednesday.
Whitey’s longtime companion, Catherine Greig, who has been charged with harboring a fugitive, has also requested a public defender.
That matter is also expected to be addressed in court this week as well.
Attorney Sam’s Take On The Right To Counsel And Presumption Of Innocence
The issue of whether or not a criminal defendant gets a court-appointed lawyer is an issue between the court and the defendant. Generally, the prosecution has no standing to address the issue.