Whitey judge says he’ll stay on bench

James "Whitey" Bulger

Alleged fugitive mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger’s attempt to remove the federal judge that will oversee his trial failed yesterday when the judge refused to recuse himself.

In a 10-page ruling released yesterday, Judge Richard Stearns said he is “confident that no reasonable person could doubt my impartiality.” He also called the action to have him removed as the trial judge an injection of “a diversionary issue.”

Bulger and his attorney, J.W. Carney Jr., filed a motion that sought to remove Stearns as the judge for Bulger’s March trial. They argued that because Stearns was previously an assistant U.S. attorney, he would have worked with those now prosecuting the case and potential witnesses.

Carney has said he anticipates calling Stearns as a witness during a possible hearing to dismiss the charges because of his knowledge of an alleged immunity agreement.

But in his ruling, Stearns said the U.S. Attorney’s office at the time was separate from the New England Organized Crime Strike Force.

“Because at no time during my service as an AUSA did I participate in or have any knowledge of any case or investigation in which defendant was a subject or target, I have nothing of a relevant or material nature to offer with regard to his case or any claim of immunity.”

Case status improving

After multiple hearings during which Bulger’s attorney and prosecutors accused one another of slowing down the progression of the case, a status hearing yesterday showed improvement.

J.W. Carney, Bulger’s attorney, said prosecutors have given him more discovery evidence and that it’s being provided in a “meaningful manner.”

But to keep the progress going, Carney requested that the court set in writing the way prosecutors must turn over certain pieces of evidence.

Prosecutors claimed Carney was “trying to set a trap for the government.”


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