Whitey Bulger’s Lawyers Want Gag Order On Government Files Lifted

Should the world know about all the shenanigans and unethical behavior involving James “Whitey” Bulger and the government?

That is the question that was just brought to US Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler last week in Boston.

Bulger’s lawyers want to be able to speak publicly about the documents that the government has on Bulger – all 300,000 of them – because they want to tell the world what these documents say. However, they can’t do that right now.
The Boston U.S. Attorney’s Office, which is prosecuting the case, previously requested that a judge issue what’s called a “Protective Order” in the case. Such an Order doesn’t protect a person, but rather, information. That request was granted. The government doesn’t want Bulger’s lawyers revealing any information that prosecutors give them, with the media, specific persons, or members of the general public. It’s a sort of “gag order,” which prohibits the a defendant’s lawyers (Bulger’s lawyers, in this case,) from discussing or sharing government files with anyone but the defense team.

Henry Brennan, one of Bulger’s lawyers, asked Judge Bowler to modify that protective order, so that Bulger’s lawyers can share the information with the entire world – and especially the media. Judge Bowler called the request “ludicrous” and has taken the matter under advisement.

As a Norfolk County, Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer, this is a tough call. On the one hand, Whitey Bulger is widely believed to be one of the most notorious killers and thugs that both Boton and the United States has ever seen – and without question that calls for extremely aggressive and careful prosecution.

On the other hand, one other things seems clear, and that is stunningly unethical previous behavior by the Boston office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, over the past 30 years. An argument coudl be made that any information in the government’s files that further expose the “dirt” and shady dealings that went on between Bulger and the FBI, should be shared. It’s already widely accepted that Bulger was not only an FBI informant, prior to disappearing with his girlfriend Catherine Greig almost 17 years ago. Just this past June, an unrepentant Greig was sentenced to eight years in prison for helping Bulger evade capture for more than 16 years.

This motion by Bulger’s lawyers is a bold move, and has generated its share of medis comment. On balance, I don’t expect this motion will be granted.