BOSTON — Catherine Greig has been by James “Whitey” Bulger’s side for more than three decades, first as a secret girlfriend he kept on the side while he lived with another woman, then as the faithful woman who left behind her life in Massachusetts so she could go on the run with him.
Now, Greig is about to learn what her punishment will be for helping Bulger elude authorities for 16 years while he was one of the most-wanted fugitives in the world.
Greig will appear before a federal judge in Boston on Tuesday, when she will be sentenced before an expected crowd of family members of people allegedly killed by Bulger. The 82-year-old former leader of the Winter Hill Gang and FBI informant is awaiting trial on charges he participated in 19 murders.
Greig faces a maximum of 15 years — 5 years on each of three charges: conspiracy to harbor a fugitive, identity fraud and conspiracy to commit identity fraud.
Federal prosecutors told family members in March that she could get as little as 32 months under federal sentencing guidelines. But on Friday, they filed a sentencing memo in court saying she deserves a much longer punishment. They asked the judge to sentence her to 10 years in prison.
“This is no garden variety harboring case. It is the most extreme case of harboring this district has ever seen,” First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Pirozzolo wrote.
“For over 16 years, Greig conspired to, and did, protect Bulger — alleged to be one of the most dangerous and violent criminals in the history of this district — from being discovered by law enforcement. Knowing full well that Bulger was wanted for very serious crimes and having ample opportunity to walk away at any time, Greig not only concealed Bulger from law enforcement, but did, herself, commit multiple additional felonies in order to protect him from capture.”
Suffolk University Law School professor Chris Dearborn said Greig’s lawyers will likely emphasize her lack of a prior criminal record and the fact that she did not participate in any of the violent crimes Bulger allegedly committed before he fled Boston.
“That’s the elephant in the room,” Dearborn said. “She was involved in harboring a fugitive who is alleged to have committed some really serious and heinous acts, but she’s not a conspirator in any of those homicides.”
Greig pleaded guilty in March under a plea deal with prosecutors. The deal does not include an agreement for Greig to cooperate against Bulger, but prosecutors said it does not preclude them from trying to compel her to testify against him.
In her plea agreement, Greig admitted that she used aliases, unlawfully obtained identification documents and repeatedly helped Bulger get prescription medication from a pharmacy by pretending to be his wife. The couple was apprehended last June in Santa Monica, Calif., where they were living in a rent-controlled apartment.
U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock has not said yet whether he will allow relatives of Bulger’s victims to give victim impact statements at Greig’s sentencing hearing. While Bulger is the one accused of killing their loved ones, many of the family members believe they have been victimized by Greig, too.
“A lot of people were hurt. She knew what was going on,” said Patricia Donahue, whose husband, Michael Donahue, died in a hail of bullets in 1982 after Bulger and another man opened fire on Edward “Brian” Halloran, who Bulger believed was going to implicate him in a murder. Donahue was an innocent bystander who happened to give Halloran a ride in his car.
“In my heart, I don’t believe (Bulger) would have stayed out there that long if it wasn’t for her,” Donahue said. “She was his companion, she was his caretaker, and without that, he never would have survived all those years. She made sure he had his medicine and she was there for him.”
Greig’s lawyer, Kevin Reddington, would not say what sentence he will recommend for Greig. When he asked a judge to release Greig on bail last year, Greig argued that she was in love with Bulger and did not know the full extent of Bulger’s crimes when she fled with him in 1995. At the time, he had been charged in a racketeering indictment that accused him of loan-sharking and extortion. A separate racketeering indictment charging him in connection with 19 murders was handed up years after the couple fled.
Steve Davis, whose 26-year-old sister, Debra Davis, was allegedly killed by Bulger in 1981, said he doesn’t buy Greig’s claim and would like to see her get a stiff sentence.
“She kept this man 16 years, gave him 16 years of freedom. She should be held responsible for the same amount of time that she kept us searching. They should give her the same amount of time as she stole from us,” Davis said.
Greig, a former dental hygienist and dog groomer, had been Bulger’s side girlfriend for 18 years while Bulger was living with another longtime girlfriend, Teresa Stanley.
Authorities have said that Bulger initially fled Boston with Stanley in 1994 after being tipped that he was about to be indicted. The tip came from former FBI agent John Connolly Jr., who was Bulger’s FBI handler when Bulger was an informant who gave the FBI information about the rival New England Mafia. They say within a few months, Bulger returned to Boston, dropped off Stanley and picked up Greig.
The couple traveled extensively during their first year on the run — to Chicago, New York City, Grand Isle, La., and other places — but then settled in a two-bedroom rented apartment in Santa Monica.
Last June, Bulger and Greig were apprehended just days after the FBI began a new publicity campaign focusing on Greig.