BOSTON (AP) — An attorney for James “Whitey” Bulger argued Wednesday that the government should expose the identity of a confidential informant he believes could undermine two star witnesses against the reputed gangster.
During a pretrial hearing Wednesday, attorney Hank Brennan said providing the informant’s name is critical to determining the credibility of John Martorano, an ex-hitman, and Kevin Weeks, Bulger’s former top lieutenant. Both are set to testify against Bulger during his trial for allegedly participating in 19 murders, which begins next month.
The defense claims in court papers that the informant, who was referenced in an FBI report from 2000, said Weeks and Martorano assured certain people they wouldn’t implicate them when they talked to law enforcement.
It’s a tactic the government has allowed its witnesses to use in the past, Brennan told U.S. District Judge Denise Casper on Wednesday, citing a 1965 murder for which four men were imprisoned after being wrongly accused by a mobster the FBI knew was lying in order to shield friends.
In remarks outside court, Brennan said the defense wanted to find out if that was happening again.
“There is no stronger motivation to lie, for somebody, than to protect themselves and protect their friends,” he said.
But prosecutors told Casper that the informant was just passing on chatter, not firsthand information.
“What we’re opposed to is exposing an informant who simply reports street talk,” said prosecutor Brian Kelly.
Casper didn’t rule on the issue Wednesday.
After court, Tommy Donahue whose father was allegedly shot to death by Bulger in 1982, said he was disgusted by the “sweet deal” the government gave Martorano and Weeks in exchange for testimony. But he said he didn’t think Bulger was being falsely accused by government witnesses.
“That old man that you see in there is an absolute animal, he’s a demon in disguise,” he said. “His heart, he’s soulless. And everything he’s accused of, he’s done.”