Lawyers for the family of one of James “Whitey” Bulger’s alleged victims urged a judge today to deny the government’s request for a $25.2 million forfeiture judgment against the gangster, saying it would allow the governmnent to secretly seize assets without giving anything to victims’ families.
Prosecutors have said they plan to distribute the money among the families of all of Bulger’s alleged victims, but lawyers representing the estate of Debra Davis said the forfeiture order is “inadequate to accomplish this goal.” Citing the government’s lack of consideration for the families in the past, they urged US District Court Judge Denise J. Casper to instead order the gangster to make restitution to all of his victims or their families.
“While the Government has recently embraced the victims—only, it should be noted, when they needed the victims to testify against Bulger—the disgusting truth is that the Government has profited from its association with Bulger and [Stephen] Flemmi,” lawyers representing the estate of Debra Davis wrote in a peitition filed in US District Court in Boston.
The government failed to give any money to victms’ families after seizing approximately $12.5 million from Bulger’s partner, Flemmi, and repeatedly opposed efforts by families to win compensation through civil wrongful death suits against the government, Attorneys Michael J. Heineman and Paul J. Griffin wrote in their petition.
“The petitioners contend that given the windfall of the Flemmi forfeiture and the sordid history of this case that it is now time for the Government to give way and compensate the true victims of this Government sponsored murderous rampage,” they wrote.
A spokeswoman for US Attorney Carmen Ortiz said, “Since Mr. Bulger’s capture in 2011, this office has been committed to seeking restitution and forfeiture of his criminal proceeds to the fullest extent of the law, and to use the restitution and forfeiture process to have those proceeds paid to victims.”
Bulger, 84, was captured in Santa Monica, Calif., in June 2011 after more than 16 years on the run. In August, jurors found that Bulger participated in 11 of 19 murders he was accused of while running a sprawling criminal enterprise from the 1970s through the 1990s that engaged in racketeering, drug trafficking, illegal gambling and money laundering.
Prosecutors presented evidence that Bulger, a long-time FBI informant, paid bribes to corrupt agents, who leaked information that resulted in murders and protected him from prosecution. He is to be sentenced in November.
Last week, prosecutors asked the judge to order Bulger to forfeit nearly $25.2 million, contending that he made that amount from drug trafficking and extortion over several decades. The order would force Bulger to turn over all of his assets to satisfy the judgment, including $822,000 in cash seized from his California apartment and any profits he might make in the future, such as from selling his life story.
Prosecutors wrote in court filings that the government may take depositions of witnesses to try to locate other assets, and that once the judge issues a forfeiture order, anyone with a legal claim to Bulger’s assets must immediately petition the court.
Jurors at Bulger’s trial were unable to reach a verdict on whether the government proved that Bulger strangled 26-year-old Davis in 1981. But when Bulger was a fugitive, a Norfolk County judge found he was liable for Davis’s murder and awarded her family a $15 million judgment against Bulger, and a $15 million judgement against Flemmi.
The lawyers for Davis’s estate urged Casper, who presided over Bulger’s federal racketeering trial, to appoint a special investigator to conduct an inquiry into the extent of Bulger’s assets, to order the government to “provide a complete accounting” of all money and property seized from Bulger, Flemmi, and their associates, John Martorano and Kevin Weeks, and to hold a hearing delving into Bulger’s assets. Shelley Murphy can be reached at Shelley.Murphy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shelleymurph.com