June 23, 2011

In Less than 10 Minutes, FBI's "Most Wanted" James "Whitey" Bulger Agreed to be Held Without Bail and to Be Sent Back to Boston

Assistant U. S. Attorney Robert Dugdale speaks to the press
 after the arraignment of James "Whitey" Bulger
 and his girlfriend Catherine Grieg.
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
 ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

LOS ANGELES, CA - In the U. S. District Court Arraignment Room 341, it took only six to seven minutes for James "Whitey" Bulger and his girlfriend, Catherine Grieg, to agree to be held without bail and to be sent back to Boston to face criminal charges he had fled more than 15 years ago. In addition, the fugitive who was thought to be living off of millions of dollars and who was once, albeit briefly, considered to be behind the world's largest art theft (the 1990 Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum involving Vermeer's The Concert and Rembrandt's Storm of Gaililee), filled out the paperwork to get a court-appointed public defender.

Camera trucks lined along Judge John Aiso St.
 just south of the Edward Roybal Federal Building
 in downtown Los Angeles.
The hearing, which began fairly promptly at about 2 p.m. was over by 2:14 p.m. Only 22 seats in room 341 had been allowed and journalists had a problem getting in, lining outside the hearing room, corralled by the U. S. Marshalls. One woman sitting on a bench outside the arraignment room, complained loudly on her cell phone that she had been waiting since 9:30 this morning to enter the room, but that she and her friend had been excluded from those let into the hearing room. She was one of the many family members waiting for the others regularly scheduled to see the judge (after Bulger and Grieg had seen the judge, the family members were counted by the U. S. Marshalls and told to go sit back down until they were called again, apparently to be seated after the media had vacated the court room).

One male journalist from ABC actually left the hearing room before it began to give up his seat for other print journalists. He explained to the line of journalists against the wall that his company already had radio and TV representatives in the room. Another journalist along the wall was told that if he was seeing giving a stare down again, he'd be removed from the building.

A reporter for Channel 7 in Boston left the hearing room and phoned in his observations: Bulger had been 'unfazed'... his 60-year-old girlfriend looked 75 even with her unlined surgically altered complexion because her hair was so white and she looked so thin...Bulger was unrecognizable ... Bulger answered the questions clearly. He agreed to be immediately "forthwith" transported by the U. S. Marshall Service back to Boston to face charges.

The U. S. Magistrate Judge was John McDermott and he was from Los Angeles as were all the personnel involved with the case. However, many of the press had boarded an early morning flight in Boston to arrive in Los Angeles for the afternoon hearing.

On the street, credit was given to the FBI for publicizing the image of Bulger's girlfriend on television shows purportedly of interest to women who might frequent beauty salons and other places that Bulger's girlfriend would visit -- the FBI played to the tendency for women to pay attention to how other women look.

Here are some updated links:

according to ABC, Whitey Bulger has lived in Santa Monica since 1996;

and Channel 7 in Boston filed it's report here online;

and to the Financial Times for how the FBI advertised for a fugitive's girlfriend.

Judge Arthur Tompkins, one of our ARCA Lecturers, just send me an email highlighting an anecdote in The New York Times about the lifestyle of a fugitive:
Janus Goodwin, 61, who lived on the same floor as Mr. Bulger and Ms. Greig, came to know the couple in 1999. She said Mr. Bulger rarely left the apartment. 
“When I would be invited in, he would always be lying on the sofa, watching TV,” Ms. Goodwin said. “He was very proud of his little art pieces, which were cheap knockoffs of Monet and Van Gogh.”
Judge Tompkins writes: "Makes you wonder, in an idle moment, if he had a stray but genuine Rembrandt or Vermeer lurking around somewhere ..."

Osama Bin Laden is dead, James "Whitey" Bulger has been captured, it would be nice if the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum found its stolen paintings.


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