Family Grief, Anger Spills Over During Greig Hearing
US District Court Judge Douglas Woodlock allowed relatives of some of James "Whitey" Bulger's alleged victims to speak at the sentencing of Catherine Greig, Bulger's longtime companion.
One witness characterized Catherine Greig as a “cold-hearted criminal.” One labeled her as an enabler, while another said she was a willing partner and co-conspirator in the 16-year flight from justice of her longtime boyfriend, reputed Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger.
Greig was sentenced to eight years in federal prison just before 2 p.m. on Tuesday at the John Joseph Moakley Federal Courthouse in South Boston for her role in helping Bulger evade capture for the past 16 years. Bulger, whose two-plus decades at the helm of the Winter Hill Gang left a bloody legacy across the city, was, for 12 years, preceded only by Osama Bin Laden on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.
U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Woodlock opted to allow family members of Bulger’s victims to read statements prior to handing down sentence, and, although the ensuing testimony was at times heart-wrenching, Greig sat stoically through the proceedings, chatting intermittently with her defense team. That changed when Woodlock passed sentence, at which point she became visibly distressed.
Allowed to speak at the hearing, victim families lashed out
Despite receiving a sentence which was not far off the 10 years requested by federal prosecutors, family members of Bulger’s victims expressed anger and dismay at the sentence and said anything less than the maximum allowable jail term was unacceptable.
“This woman does not deserve any leniency at all,” said Steve Davis, whose sister disappeared in 1981 and was later revealed to have allegedly been strangled by Bulger. “She doesn’t even have the heart to look us in the eye.”
Davis closed his remarks by calling Greig a “dirty [expletive].”
A row nearly broke out during a morning recess when an unknown individual chastised Davis for his harsh words towards Greig while Davis spoke with reporters. Both parties had to be restrained by courthouse employees.
Tim Connors, whose father was allegedly killed by Bulger 37 years ago to the day, also expressed his anger towards Greig.
“You’re not here by choice,” he said to Greig. “You’re here because you got caught. You are a cold-hearted criminal.”
Connors also took a personal swipe at Greig, alluding to the 1984 suicide of her younger brother, David Greig.
“If I had a sister like you, I would have killed myself too,” said Connors. His comment elicited the first visible reaction of the day from Greig, who immediately put her hands to her face and began to cry.
Connors told Judge Woodlock that, if he imposed anything less than the maximum sentence, he “may as well walk over here and stick this pen in my eye.”
One common theme among the family members of Bulger’s victims was the sentiment that, no matter what sentence Woodlock passed down, it wouldn’t be enough, as, thanks to Bulger, they are all serving life terms.
“My family is serving the maximum sentence and so should she,” said Patricia Donohue, whose husband was shot to death in 1982. “I feel Greig bears a lot of responsibility for Whitey evading capture for 16 years. I believe he wouldn’t have survived all those years without her help. She was his enabler.”
Speaking with reporters outside the courthouse, however, Donohue did express satisfaction that Greig will be spending the foreseeable future behind bars.
Paul McGonagle, whose father, also named Paul, disappeared in 1974 and whose body was discovered at Dorchester’s Tenean Beach in 2000, spoke against Greig as well.
“My father had his faults, but no matter what he did, he did not deserve to die the way he did,” said Paul McGonagle.
The fifth and final witness, Stephen Rakes, whose Southie liquor store was taken over by Bulger, spoke about the impact Bulger’s alleged criminal actions had on his family. He also stated he lived in constant fear that Bulger would one day return and kill him, he said.
Greig attorney responds
Greig’s attorney, Kevin Reddington, had asked the judge for a rather lenient 27-month jail term, and maintained his client did nothing wrong aside from falling in love with Bulger.
"Why people fall in love has been debated since before Shakespeare's sonnets," attorney Kevin Reddington wrote to the judge on Monday. "Many times people fall in love and their family or loved ones do not approve or condone the relationship. The truth of the matter is that she was and remained in love with Mr. Bulger."
Speaking outside the courthouse following sentencing, Reddington had some harsh words for the families of Bulger’s victims regarding their comments towards his client.
“It was nasty, it was repulsive and it shows the caliber of the individuals we are dealing with,” said Reddington following the sentencing. “I think Judge Woodlock put that in its appropriate perspective. Calling her the names they did, and especially the individual [Connors] referencing her dead brother ... That’s just beyond reprehensible.”
Reddington was asked if his client, who displayed so little trace of remorse during the proceedings, felt any contrition.
“She was and is in love with Mr. Bulger,” said Reddington. “She is certainly a person who does not regret what she did in living her life with him. He’s the love of her life.”
U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz also addressed the media following the sentencing.
"We are very pleased with the sentence that the court imposed," said Ortiz.
"This was not just a mere harboring case. This also wasn't just a mere case about a woman making bad choices because she fell in love. This was not a romantic saga. This was a serious case where Catherine Greig committed serious crimes."
Greig pleaded guilty in March to three charges: conspiracy to harbor a fugitive, conspiracy to commit identity fraud, and identity fraud. She faced a maximum of five years behind bars for each charge and a $250,000 fine.