BOSTON (AP) - Federal prosecutors moved Tuesday to dismiss a 1994 racketeering indictment against mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger in order to focus on a later indictment that charged the newly captured fugitive of participating in 19 murders.
But U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf told prosecutors during a court hearing that dismissal of the indictment is "not automatic" and that he would give Bulger's provisional attorney, Peter Krupp, a day to consult with Bulger to see whether he objects to the dismissal.
The earlier indictment, which charged Bulger with extortion, loan sharking, witness tampering and conspiracy, prompted Bulger to flee Boston just before it was handed up in early 1995. He remained a fugitive until last week, when he was apprehended in Santa Monica, Calif., with his longtime girlfriend, Catherine Greig.
Krupp told Wolf the decision to drop the first indictment appears to be "forum shopping" on the part of prosecutors, an apparent reference to the fact that Wolf - who has presided in that case since 1995 - would no longer be the judge overseeing the Bulger prosecution. U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns is assigned to the 1999 indictment, which includes the murder charges.
Wolf is the judge who held hearings in the 1990s that exposed the Boston FBI's corrupt relationship with Bulger and his cohort, Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi.
Both gangsters were FBI informants who provided the agency with information on the Mafia, their main rivals. Former FBI agent John Connolly Jr. was convicted of racketeering and obstruction of justice for protecting Bulger and Flemmi from prosecution.
The proposed dismissal of the earlier indictment prompted Wolf to postpone a decision on whether Bulger is indigent and therefore entitled to a taxpayer-funded attorney.
Prosecutors have objected to giving Bulger a public defender, citing the more than $800,000 in cash they found in Bulger's apartment and "family resources," including potential help from his brother, former Massachusetts state Senate President William Bulger.