This courtroom sketch depicts James "Whitey" Bulger before… (Jane Flavell Collins / Associated…)
Federal prosecutors said Tuesday they want to get James "Whitey" Bulger on trial "as soon as possible," saying the families of the 19 people he is accused of killing deserve justice.
In court papers filed in Boston, U.S. Atty. Carmen Ortiz said there was "substantial public interest in ensuring the defendant faces the most serious charges before the end of his natural life. The 19 families of murder victims have been denied justice for many years because the defendant has successfully eluded law enforcement apprehension."
"The U.S. attorney is committed to seeing that this defendant, who is now 81 years old, is called to account as soon as possible," Ortiz wrote.
Ortiz said prosecutors were dropping a 1994 racketeering indictment against Bulger to concentrate on a stronger case involving the murder charges. That indictment charged Bulger with multiple counts of extortion, loan sharking, witness tampering and conspiracy. A corrupt FBI agent apparently tipped Bulger off to his impending arrest in that case, and Bulger fled.
New murder and racketeering charges were added in 1999 when members of his crime syndicate became informants for the government.
FBI agents are analyzing two cellphones found at Bulger's Santa Monica apartment, hoping they can provide clues as to whether the Boston mobster received help during his 14 years as a fugitive.
Authorities are trying to figure out how Bulger — one of the FBI's 10 most wanted fugitives — was able to live fairly openly in Santa Monica. One key question is whether he got financial help. The FBI found more than $800,000 in cash inside the walls of the apartment.
In an interview with the FBI on a flight from Los Angeles to Boston, Bulger admitted that he "previously stashed money with people he trusted." But he did not say whether anyone is hiding assets for him now, according to the court records.
The cellphones could also help explain how Bulger was able to communicate with his associates without his true identity being discovered by those he saw every day.
Bulger also told federal agents he had traveled — sometimes armed and disguised — not only to his hometown but also to Las Vegas, San Diego and Tijuana, the court papers said.