Whitey Bulger's 'Use Immunity' Argument Might Be in Vain

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on June 27, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

What does the First Circuit Court of Appeals say about former FBI informants who claim use immunity?

Unfortunately for James "Whitey" Bulger, there isn't much room for immunity. But that doesn't mean he won't be raising the argument.

Bulger's attorneys already raised the issue in a U.S. District Court, writes The Boston Globe. But U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz scoffed at the idea, telling The Boston Herald that there is no such immunity deal.

And even if there is, the courts have addressed the same issue before in a related mobster case, and ruled against use immunity.

We've covered the story of mobster Whitey Bulger previously on this blog. Whitey Bulger was a notorious mobster who was also moonlighting as an FBI informant. His story even lent itself to the movie The Departed several years ago.

After being on the run for 16 years, Bulger and his girlfriend were apprehended and are being brought to justice. Bulger has been accused of several murders and now, he's raising the defense that he was an FBI informant and that as such, he was granted use immunity from prosecution for his crimes.

This tactic was already used by Bulger's former associate, Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi. And unfortunately for Flemmi and Bulger, the First Circuit shot down the argument.

If we look back at Flemmi's case, the appellate court asked whether FBI agents, acting independently, have the authority to confer use immunity on a confidential informant?

The First Circuit Court of Appeals decided way back then that immunity could not be conferred in such a situation.

In the First Circuit's decision in Flemmi, reference was made to Bulger as well, as the court noted that the same deal was made with both Flemmi and Bulger.

The rule of thumb is that a formal grant of immunity, conferred under 18 USC 6002 must be honored. But the court noted that Flemmi's case differed from this definition.

Flemmi and Bulger didn't receive their immunity by way of statutory grant or plea bargain. Specifically, the First Circuit pointed out that FBI agents lacked actual authority to promise use immunity to an informant.

Nevertheless, Flemmi's case isn't stopping Whitey Bulger yet. Perhaps his attorney has a different trick up his sleeve?

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