BOSTON (AP) - Attorneys for reputed gangster James "Whitey" Bulger are set to argue in court Wednesday that he was given immunity to commit crimes while he was an FBI informant.
Bulger, the former leader of the Winter Hill Gang, is awaiting trial in a sweeping racketeering indictment accusing him of participating in 19 murders. He claims a federal prosecutor gave him immunity for his crimes while he was providing the FBI information on local leaders of the Mafia, his gang's main rivals.
Bulger, 83, fled Boston in 1994 and was one of the FBI's most wanted fugitives until his capture in Santa Monica, Calif., in 2011.
Bulger's lawyers want to use his immunity claim as a defense at his murder trial. Bulger contends former federal prosecutor Jeremiah O'Sullivan, who led the New England Organized Crime Strike Force, gave him immunity while he was an FBI informant in the 1970s and '80s. O'Sullivan, who died in 2009, denied ever making an immunity deal with Bulger during his testimony before Congress in 2002.
Federal prosecutors have called Bulger's claim "absurd" and have asked a federal judge to decide the issue before trial. The judge scheduled a hearing for Wednesday.
His trial is set to begin June 6 in U.S. District Court.