Prosecutors drop racketeering charges against Whitey Bulger 0

During a brief hearing today, the United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts dismissed all counts of racketeering against James J. “Whitey” Bulger — the original case that caused him to go on the lam 16 years ago.

US attorney Carmen Ortiz decided to dismiss the charges and focus more heavily on the RICO murder case, which charges him with 19 murders and carries higher penalties that the racketeering charges. Ortiz also stated that she feels it is “stronger both factually and legally.”

“The 19 families of murder victims have been denied justice for many years because the defendant has successfully eluded law enforcement apprehension,’’ Ortiz wrote in the pleading, the Boston Globe reported. ”The United States Attorney is committed to seeing that this defendant, who is now 81 years old, is called to account as soon as possible for the crimes affecting those families.’’

The hearing was originally scheduled to decide whether Bulger would receive state appointed representation, but this was not resolved.

Bulger will continue to be represented by Peter Krupp, who has asked Chief US District Court Judge Mark Wolf to order federal law enforcement agencies to stop sharing information about Bulger and the evidence against him with the media.

This request came on the tails of a Boston Sunday Globe article about Bulger’s statement that he traveled to Mexico to buy heart medicine.

It is still uncertain whether Wolf has the authority to give Bulger a lawyer paid for by the state; he was assigned the case in 1995, but Judge Richard Stearns is in charge of the other indictments.

Another hearing is set for Thursday afternoon, but hinted that his involvement in the search for Bulger’s representation may be over.

Bulger has said that he cannot afford a lawyer, but could if the court would return the $822,198 in cash they found in his Santa Monica, Calif. apartment