Whitey Bulger judge removed: The judge overseeing the case against Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger was removed on Thursday.
The presiding judge in the case for Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger was removed on Thursday by a federal appeals court.
U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns has to step down from the case because his former job as a federal prosector could imperil his impartiality, the court said. He was a criminal prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston when Bulger, 83, was allegedly running organized crime in the city.
“In sum, despite our respect for Judge Stearns and our belief in his sincerity, we are nonetheless bound to conclude that it is clear that a reasonable person might question the judge’s ability to preserve impartiality through the course of this prosecution,” the appeals court said on its website.
But Boston U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said the appointment of a new judge should not delay the proceedings against Bulger.
“We respect the opinion of the Court and will continue to prepare the matter for trial. We are hopeful that this opinion will not cause a delay, as it has always been our goal to try this case as soon as possible. The victims’ families have waited long enough,” she said in a statement.
Bulger, who allegedly headed Boston’s Winter Hill gang and was the basis of Jack Nicholson’s character in “The Departed,” faces 19 murder charges. He also faces money laundering and extortion charges.
He was on the lam from law enforcement for 16 years, but was captured in 2011 in California with his girlfriend. His trial was originally slated to start on June 6.
Bulger also served as an FBI informant when Stearns was a Boston prosecutor.
“Given the institutional ties described here, the reasonable person might well question whether a judge who bore supervisory responsibility for prosecutorial activities during some of the time at issue could suppress his inevitable feelings and remain impartial when asked to determine how far to delve into the relationship between defendant and Government,” the court said on Thursday.
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