By Scott Malone
BOSTON (Reuters) - A U.S. judge sentenced the girlfriend of reputed mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger to eight years in prison on Tuesday for her role in helping him evade arrest for 16 years.
Judge Douglas Woodlock also imposed on Catherine Greig a $150,000 fine and ordered her to serve three years of supervised release once she is out of prison.
Rather than face trial Greig, 61, pleaded guilty in March to charges of conspiracy to harbor a fugitive, conspiracy to commit identity fraud, and identity fraud. Prosecutors had sought 10 years in prison while her attorney had recommended 27 months.
Woodlock told Greig that she had to take responsibility for her own choices made over the many years that Bulger was on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list.
Greig, in blue prison jumpsuit, briefly nodded at her twin sister, Margaret McCusker, before being led out of the packed courtroom in downtown Boston. McCusker later said merely that she "loves her sister."
Greig's attorney, Kevin Reddington, told reporters that he was unlikely to appeal the sentence and that Greig was "in great spirits."
"Judge Woodlock gave very, very thoughtful, considerate analysis to the facts that were before him," Reddington said. "I think he was as fair as he could be."
Woodlock said he took into account both the severity of Bulger's crimes -- he is accused of 19 murders from the 1970s and 80s -- and the long period of time that Greig helped him to hide from justice.
"Eight years is a very significant sentence," said Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney in Boston. "This is not a romantic saga. This is a serious case where Catherine Greig committed serious crimes."
Greig and Bulger, 82, were arrested on June 22, 2011, in an apartment hideout in Santa Monica, California, blocks from the Pacific Ocean, where they had lived under a number of fake and stolen identities for most of their years on the run.
A cache of some 30 weapons as well as more than $800,000 in cash was hidden in a hole in the wall of the apartment. Much of the pre-sentencing debate centered on Greig's knowledge of, and access to, the guns.
'CRUEL, CRUDE' STATEMENTS
Before sentencing, the court heard emotional testimony from the families of some of Bulger's alleged victims. Before they spoke, Woodlock explained that while he did not believe they had a legal right to do so, since they were not directly the victims of Greig's crimes, he considered allowing them to speak was "the right thing to do."
It was somewhat of an act of contrition for a legal system that turned a blind eye to Bulger's crimes for many years as he provided prosecutors information on the actions of rival gangsters. The accused mob boss fled Boston in 1994 after getting a tip from a corrupt FBI agent that authorities were closing in on him. Greig joined Bulger a few weeks later.
"She doesn't even have the heart to look any of us in the eye," said Steven Davis, whose 26-year-old sister, Debra, was one of Bulger's alleged victims.
Tim Connors, whose father Edward was allegedly shot by Bulger in 1975, said Greig was "a cold-hearted criminal (who) never showed any sympathy toward any of us."
Greig did not flinch at Davis' words, and did not turn to look at the families. She also declined to address the court.
Woodlock apologized to Greig for the way some of the victims had spoken to her.
"It illustrates the tensions in the criminal justice system. The statements of certain of the victims were cruel, crude, harsh, but reflecting vengeance," Woodlock said. "That is where civilization started, not where it is supposed to end."
After the hearing, Davis stood by his words. "We're victims and we lost loved ones," he said.
Bulger has pleaded not guilty. His trial is scheduled to start on November 5 although his lawyers have said they need more time to sift through hundreds of thousands of pages of evidence.
Bulger's case inspired Martin Scorsese's 2006 Academy Award-winning film "The Departed."
The case is United States v. Catherine Greig, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts, No. 11-10286.
(Reporting by Scott Malone; writing by Ros Krasny; Editing by David Storey)