BOSTON (AP) — Federal prosecutors asked a judge Tuesday to allow family members of 19 people Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger was accused of killing to make victim impact statements at his sentencing hearing, even though Bulger was not convicted in all the deaths.
Prosecutors said they plan to seek a life sentence for Bulger, who turned 84 last week. Bulger was convicted last month of racketeering, including 11 killings, as well as extortion, money laundering and weapons charges. The federal jury found that prosecutors had not proven that Bulger participated in seven of the killings and made no finding in one of them.
Assistant District Attorney Brian Kelly said 14 or 15 family members want to speak during Bulger's sentencing in November, while others want to submit written statements. He cited legal precedents for allowing testimony at sentencing on "acquitted conduct."
Bulger's attorney, J.W. Carney Jr., would not say whether the defense plans to oppose the request. He said he would file a written response in court but acknowledged that "it's a matter left in large measure to a judge's discretion."
The request from prosecutors came during a status conference in court. During the hearing, Kelly told Judge Denise Casper that prosecutors plan to ask for a sentence of life, plus 30 years or life, plus 35 years.
Carney would not say what sentence he plans to recommend. He also declined to say whether Bulger plans to make a statement during his sentencing hearing. "As of right now, I don't know what his decision will be," Carney said.
Bulger kept prosecutors and spectators guessing about whether he would testify in his own defense during his two-month trial. But at the end of the defense's case, he called the trial a "sham" and said he would not testify because he had been prohibited from presenting a defense using his claim that he had received immunity for his crimes decades ago from a now-deceased federal prosecutor.
Bulger, who was not present in court Tuesday, waived his right to attend the hearing, Carney said. Casper did not immediately rule on the request for impact statements from relatives of all 19 people. She said everyone who is allowed to speak will get five to 10 minutes to talk about the victim and the loss they suffered because of his or her death.
The sentencing hearing will begin Nov. 13 with arguments from prosecutors and Bulger's lawyers, followed by victim impact statements, and conclude the next day when Casper hands down the sentence. Bulger was convicted of running a violent criminal enterprise that made millions from illegal gambling, drugs and extortion in the 1970s and '80s. He became one of the nation's most-wanted fugitives when he fled Boston in 1994 ahead of an indictment. While he was on the run, court hearings revealed that Bulger was also an FBI informant who provided information on the rival New England Mafia and others.
Bulger was finally captured in 2011 in Santa Monica, Calif.