You know, when addressing to things like the long-sought capture of alleged mob kingpin Whitey Bulger, one really has to laugh sometimes at what captures the media’s attention.
As you may recall, last week was a big one for Whitey (hereinafter, the “Defendant”), He had just been captured after evading various state and federal law enforcement agencies, and their outstanding warrants, for years. The Defendant was wanted for a host of crimes including various Massachusetts murders, federal white collar crimes and…well, you name it. He was apprehended out of state with his his wife, Catherine Elizabeth Greig, a great deal of money and, allegedly, a substantial collection of firearms. He was brought back to South Boston’s federal court, where two significant legal issues quickly presented themselves.
The first issue was that of counsel. We discussed it a couple of times in this blog last week, but, suffice to say, the Defendant took the position that, since the government had taken all his money upon his capture, he could not afford his own experienced criminal defense attorney. The government sought to break new legal ground by weighing into the issue, claiming that publically funded counsel should not be provided because law enforcement believed that the Defendant had other access to money…such as his family and friends.
Prosecutors also claimed that the Defendant must have money hidden elsewhere and so he should use that. What they did not mention of course, was that they were hoping the Defendant would disclose said alleged funds so that they could grab that money as well.
And so it was that the court scheduled hearings on that mind-bending legal conundrum and a temporary attorney (hereinafter, “Substitute Counsel” was appointed in the meantime. Said attorney would deal with the issue of counsel as well as the new motion brought forth by the government. The new motion was to dismiss the earlier charges against the Defendant (the ones that allegedly sent him fleeing the Commonwealth in the first place) and simply go forward on the later indictments which included several charges of murder.
Well, the week brought us two days of hearings for the Defendant. As for the dismissal, the government won. This was really no surprise, as we will get to tomorrow. The Defendant, however, did get his court appointed attorney. Frankly, he hit the legal jackpot in doing so, receiving the aid of Attorney J. W. Carney, Jr., an attorney with whom I am acquainted and respect greatly.
The funny part is that of the various issues which have been, and will be, involved in the Defendant’s prosecution, none seemed to be the issue which primarily concerned everyone as the week came to a close. Instead, it was the issue of transportation which seemed to be the main concern.
You see, at the request of the United States Marshals, the Defendant got a free helicopter ride.
To bring him to court from his holding cell, the Defendant was brought on board a US Coast Guard Jayhawk MH-60 helicopter and then driven in a convoy to US District Court in South Boston for his Wednesday hearings. He was then flown back to jail on the Coast Guard chopper.
Various people were enraged. Family members of those allegedly killed by the Defendant complained that they had never had such a helicopter ride. Of course, presumably, they had never spent such time in chains as the Defendant is, either.
Indeed, radio talk show hosts, closely monitoring these critical issues opined at the costs associated, and so charged to the public, were in the high thousands of dollars. The last word on the number is that the Coast Guard and US Marshals are claiming that the transport cost only $1,500.
Even politicians weighed in on this seemingly critical matter. United States Senator Scott Brown, for example, wrote a letter to the head of the US Marshals Service, pointing to the Defendant’s helicopter ride and the marshals’ use of a “private luxury jet’ to bring him back from California, where he was arrested last week. “I agreed with U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz when she said Whitey Bulger would be ‘treated like every other defendant.’ So far, that does not seem to be the case,” he wrote.
Maybe they should have just made him walk the many miles like in the good old days, pulled by horses should he slow down.
Attorney Sam’s Take On Courthouse Security, Surviving Court And Money
Before you imagine the Defendant sitting in his window seat, happily enjoying his helicopter ride as officials point out sites of interest as he licks his ice cream cone and holds a balloon in his other free hand, you may want to venture back to reality.
You may want to think back and remember what the scene looked like at the courthouse on both days the Defendant had his hearings.
Security could not have been tighter. The building was surrounded, including from the waters behind the courthouse. I mentioned last week that it was reminiscent of when a super-villain is brought to court in a comic book or a comic book movie.
And why not?
The Defendant is a man for whom the government has been looking for many years. He successfully evaded them. He still has many enemies out there, on both sides of the law, who would shed not a tear if he did not live to see trial…or if he, simply, did not live to see another day.
In its wisdom, the US Marshals, responsible for the Defendant’s safety, requested this mode of transport. Do people really believe that the marshals simply thought it would be fun to travel by air that fine day?
I have to break some very bad news here…certain prosecutions, and indeed, incarcerations, are pretty expensive. This little helicopter ride is likely to be the least of it in this case.
Yet, our prosecutors generally seek to push for such costly prosecutions and punishments in cases where, to the casual or not-so-casual onlooker, neither makes any sense.
Well, you know the answer. We have discussed it many times. It is summed up in the oft-heard addage…”Well, what if we give him a break and he goes out and kills somebody?”
The quotation, by the way, can be heard in cases ranging from disorderly conduct, to drug possession, to assault, to…well, whatever.
We, in our people-rule society, do not complain. In fact, we condone it so long as it does not happen to us.
In this case, the government believes the Defendant killed people. In fact, most of the media is so convinced that the word “alleged” is hardly used.
So, it may not really serve us to be scrutinizing the cost of a couple of helicopter rides when the government thinks it is necessary for security reasons as they deal with the man who has been Boston’s Most Wanted for so long.
There are bigger, more troubling pictures.
We’ll get back to them tomorrow, as promised last week.
To view the article upon which this blog is based, please go to http://www.boston.com/Boston/metrodesk/2011/07/estimates-differ-cost-whitey-bulger-controversial-chopper-ride/qI4Jza3h4oOXu6httl3MwO/index.html