'Whitey' Bulger pleads not guilty


James 'Whitey' Bulger, the Boston mobster arrested in California last month after 16 years on the run, pleaded not guilty to 48 charges including racketeering, extortion, money laundering, obstruction of justice, perjury and weapons violations.

Bulger appeared in federal court today before US Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler in Boston. He was represented by Boston criminal defence attorney J.W. Carney Jr., who was appointed by the judge last week.

Bulger had asked the court to appoint a lawyer to represent him, arguing that he couldn't afford one because the government seized more than $800,000 in cash from his apartment after his arrest.

The defendant (81), and his girlfriend, Catherine Greig, 60, were arrested on June 22nd after the Federal Bureau of Investigation, working on a tip, lured the fugitive out of an apartment building in Santa Monica, California.

Bulger was wanted in connection with at least 19 murders committed between 1973 and 1985 and a variety of crimes including extortion, loan sharking, bookmaking and narcotics trafficking. He was one of the FBI's top 10 most-wanted fugitives.

The bureau offered a $2 million reward for information leading to his capture. He was indicted in May 2001 on the charges that he pleaded not guilty to today.

US Attorney Carmen Ortiz in Boston said on June 28th she won't pursue a 1994 indictment of Bulger for extortion to focus on the newer, "more serious" charges, according to a court filing.

Bulger would spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted in connection with any murders with a predicate act of racketeering, Ms Ortiz said.

The evidence in the newer case is stronger while the older one weakened during the 16 years Bulger was on the run from authorities, Ms Ortiz said, noting that at least two key witnesses have died.