Attorneys for accused Boston gangster James "Whitey" Bulger – charged with 19 murders that he allegedly committed while acting as an FBI informant – have accused state police of covering up crimes for another convicted hitman slated to testify against him.
Hit man John Martorano admitted to murdering 20 people and served 12 years in federal prison after he agreed to work with federal prosecutors in taking down Bulger and rogue FBI agent John Connolly. Martorano was released in 2007 and is expected to testify against Bulger in the coming weeks.
Bulger's attorneys are demanding any documentation pertaining to Massachusetts State Trooper Steve Johnson and whether Johnson facilitated continuing criminal activity that Martorano may have engaged in since his release. Johnson was one of the law enforcement officers whose efforts to take down Bulger were stymied by the FBI.
The accusation was made in a brief filed by Bulger's attorneys today. A judge could rule whether the U.S. Attorney's office will be forced to hand over any documentation pertaining to Johnson "or any other member of the Massachusetts State Police" suspected of working to "protect or insulate John Martorano from law enforcement investigations relating to criminal acts occurring since his release from federal prison."
There are no specific crimes mentioned in the brief, but it refers to a letter the U.S. Attorney's Office received about Martorano's criminal activity. Bulger's attorneys have added Johnson and another Bulger pursuer, DEA Agent Dan Doherty, to the witness list. That status would effectively keep them out of the courtroom since witnesses are not allowed to sit through proceedings before they testify.
The inclusion of Johnson and Doherty on the witness list has infuriated federal prosecutors. They wrote in a responding brief that the tactic is an attempt to "disrupt the government's trial efforts."
Prosecutors argued that Johnson and Doherty are critical to the government's efforts to unravel the complexities of the case.
Bulger's appearance in court this week is the start of a trial that began with an indictment unsealed 18 years ago. Bulger was on the run for 16 years after he was tipped off to that indictment by Connolly. Connolly has been convicted of racketeering and obstruction of justice for his actions to protect Bulger.
Johnson and Doherty, prosecutors argued, "have worked for approximately two decades on this case."
The requests are among a plethora of legal briefs filed this week that U.S. District Court Judge Denise J. Casper must grapple with during the ongoing jury selection process. Casper is hoping to seat 18 jurors, culled from the 858 prospective candidates who have been called to court already, by early next week.
Opening statements are slated to begin on Wednesday June 12. The trial is expected to last until mid-September.
Michele McPhee is a freelance investigative reporter in Boston and a frequent contributor to ABC News