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June 11, 2012

Heated "victims" and "low" guideline range set up interesting sentencing for mobster's moll

This new AP article, which is headlined "Lawyer for Mass. mobster's lover asks for leniency," reports on the final pre-game development before a high-profile federal sentencing scheduled for tomorrow in a high-profile criminal case out of Boston.  Here are the details:

The lawyer for the longtime girlfriend of Boston mobster James "Whitey" Bulger asked a judge on Monday to sentence her to 27 months in prison for helping the fugitive stay on the run for 16 years.  Prosecutors have asked for a decade in prison for Catherine Greig, who faces sentencing Tuesday.

The 61-year-old pleaded guilty in March to charges of conspiracy to harbor a fugitive, identity fraud and conspiracy to commit identity fraud.  The 82-year-old Bulger is awaiting trial on charges he participated in 19 murders.  Authorities captured the couple in Santa Monica, Calif., last June.  Prosecutors say the pair posed as married retirees from Chicago and had a stash of more than $800,000 in cash and 30 weapons in their apartment upon capture.

In a sentencing memo, Greig's lawyer Kevin Reddington said his client was in love with Bulger and there was no evidence she knew about the money or guns.  He said Bulger was a "Robin Hood like" person and a "champion of the oppressed" when she fled with him, years before an indictment revealed "horrific allegations of murder."

The attorney called the government's sentencing recommendation a "draconian sentence" to crush someone prosecutors are trying to portray as a "sinister mastermind."  Reddington also suggested that the government was trying to "rectify the bungling" of their investigation and redeem themselves from bad publicity.  He said the government struck a plea deal with Greig, then faced criticism in the media from family members of those whom prosecutors say Bulger killed.

Greig faces a maximum of 15 years in prison, but prosecutors previously said she could serve as little as 32 months under sentencing guidelines.  Reddington's memo says probation officials recommended a prison sentence of 27 to 33 months.

The defense attorney also singled out Steven Davis, the brother of a 26-year-old woman who prosecutor say Bulger killed in 1981, as spearheading criticism he says led to a post-plea effort by the government to give his client a long prison sentence.  Greig's attorney also filed an objection Monday to a request from the U.S. attorney's office to allow Davis and other family of Bulger's victims to speak at her sentencing.  He says they're not victims of Greig's crimes.

Prosecutors have called Greig's conduct the most extreme case of harboring a criminal they've seen.  They said she protected Bulger from authorities, for years denying the family of his victims the chance to see him brought to justice.  Davis said Monday that a sentence of 27 months "would be the most ridiculous thing to ever come out of federal court."...

Patricia Donahue, the widow of a man who died in a hail of bullets after prosecutors say Bulger opened fire on someone else in 1982, called the defense's request for 27 months in prison for Greig "a joke" that would encourage other people to harbor criminals.   Donahue, of Boston, also said she was hoping to speak at Greig's sentencing.  "How are we not victims of the crime if she spent 16 years with the man responsible for my husband's death?" Donahue said.

The specifics of this AP article prompt the quote marks in the title of this post, which in turn frame the interesting legal issues now presented by Catherine Greig's sentencing.  I  can see a good argument for calling the victims of Bulgler's crimes also victims of Greig's crimes of harboring and fraud (and I generally take an expansive view of who has rights under the federal Crime Victims Rights Act).  But, especially if one credits Greig's claims that she did not know all about Bulger's homicidal past (and that folks are really most angry about how the feds have handled the Bulger case), I can also see a reasonable argument for limiting how victims of Bulgler's murders get to express themselves at Greig's sentencing.

Even more interesting for hard-core sentencing fans seems to be the distinct dynamic in this case of a defense attorney urging a sentencing judge to follow the guidelines while federal prosecutors seek some form of a departure from the guidelines.  As all federal sentencing practitioners know, in nearly all post-Booker cases, the prosecutors are typically defending the guidelines and seeking within-guideline sentences while defense attorneys attack the guidelines as too harsh and seek non-guideline outcomes.  But, in this distinctive case, it appears that the defense attorney will be praising the guidelines, while prosecutors (and perhaps also victims) argue that a within-guideline sentence would be unjust and inappropriate.

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