So news reports indicate that a federal grand jury is once again investigating the 1990 "heist" of $500M worth of masterpieces from the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum in Boston. The stolen works include "irreplaceable" paintings by such Grand Masters as Rembrandt and Vermeer, as well as works by Manet and Degas; and speculation is rampant that alleged crime-boss James "Whitey" Bulger must know something about it. Court-watchers and prognosticators suggest that this may well present a dilemma for U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz and the federal prosecutors and agents involved with the unsolved mystery and its two decades long investigation. On the one hand, do the Feds try to make a deal with Bulger, despite his 19 alleged murders and the substantial "black eye" the FBI received from years of allowing him to operate his purported criminal enterprise with impunity as a so-called "top echelon" informant? Or, on the other hand, do they take a shot at solving once and for all the greatest Massachusetts crime mystery since the Great Brink’s robbery back in 1950 in the interest of restoring to the public national treasures that may well never be seen again otherwise. Those close to the process say, in essence, that now that the Feds "have their man," there is no way they will let him dictate or determine his own future for any result or reason. Others say it may be Bulger’s one remaining "ace in the hole."
While the Feds do have the ability to haul him before a grand jury, Bulger still has an absolute right not to say anything. And while the Feds could then move to immunize his testimony and compel him to testify (they would never give him transactional immunity; but only "use" immunity, and only in terms of what he will be asked about the Gardner Heist — they’d never be so dumb as to ask him about other crimes), he can always still refuse, and likely would — since the Feds’ only leverage would be to threaten him with contempt and incarceration for "18 months or the length of the grand jury" (a phrase I know well from my days as a former federal prosecutor dealing with Mob Grand Juries); all of which means nothing to a man currently being held without bail, who is facing imprisonment for the rest of his natural life, several times over, if convicted on the charges he is facing.
So are we truly at the stalemate that legal analysts believe and art-lovers lament? Not necessarily. There is a possible in-between solution no one is talking about… Catherine Greig. Bulger’s longtime paramour and alleged companion during his years on the run is facing sentencing in June after pleading guilty to a Superseding Information charging her with conspiracy to harbor a fugitive; conspiracy to commit identity fraud; and identity fraud. Her actual sentencing guidelines numbers have not been disclosed by U.S. Probation, but she is facing up to five years on each count. While third-party cooperation/benefit deals are not common, they are not unheard of either. The 61 year old Greig would have a lot to gain from Bulger’s cooperation about the Gardner Heist. At the same time, the public and U.S. Attorney would have a lot to gain by solving the Art World’s greatest mystery. And the beauty would be that those prosecutors who have worked hard to try to restore the FBI’s integrity and are determined to gain justice for Bulger’s alleged victims will be giving up nothing. Now, I don’t pretend to know the first thing about what Whitey Bulger may or may not know about the Gardner thefts, and have no knowledge of any of the facts of the ongoing grand jury investigation aside from what I have read about in the newspapers. As a defense attorney, my allegiances are squarely with the best interests of justice and protecting and guarding the inalienable rights of the accused. However, as an art lover myself (who knows how the federal criminal justice system works from both sides of the aisle), I may just have a solution here that pays deference to, and dividends in, everyone’s best interests. Just a thought…
If you have been accused of a crime and you need a lawyer to represent you please contact Brad Bailey at 781-589-2828