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'Whitey' Bulger's defense team tries to show his softer side

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BOSTON — James “Whitey” Bulger's defense team released photographs showing the reputed Boston gangster's softer side — including images of him cuddling with animals — in a possible prelude to him taking the stand in his racketeering trial.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Fred Wyshak complained to the judge that Bulger's lawyers were merely trying to bolster his image after weeks of testimony from prosecution witnesses who described killings and extortion schemes he is accused of committing.

The photos show Bulger holding dogs, a parrot and even a goat. Others show him with his longtime girlfriend, Catherine Greig, and one appears to show him on vacation, smiling, shirtless and sitting on a wall overlooking the ocean.

“This is obviously an attempt to salvage Mr. Bulger's public reputation by publishing dozens of photos with him holding all sorts of animals,” Wyshak said. “I don't know if being an animal lover is going to salvage his reputation.”

One photo that probably won't help Bulger's defense shows him sitting with a priest who was identified Thursday as Msgr. Frederick Ryan, the former vice chancellor of the Boston Archdiocese who was defrocked for allegedly sexually abusing teenage boys in the 1980s.

Boston lawyer Mitchell Garabedian, who sued the archdiocese on behalf of two men who said they were abused by Ryan as teens, said one of his clients and a man who used to work with Ryan both identified the priest as Ryan after seeing the photo published in the Boston Globe.

Bulger, 83, is charged in a racketeering indictment with playing a role in 19 killings and multiple extortions during the 1970s and '80s when he allegedly led the Winter Hill Gang.

Prosecutors on Thursday continued to complain that defense lawyers had not said whether Bulger would take the stand.

J.W. Carney Jr., one of Bulger's attorneys, said the defense planned to present two witnesses Friday and to read to the jury portions of a deposition from the mother of one of Bulger's alleged slaying victims. He stayed mum on whether or not Bulger would testify.

Wyshak told the court the photos, which the defense filed to an electronic docket accessible to the public and media, could be authenticated only if Bulger planned to take the stand.

Carney, however, said he filed them in response to a request from prosecutors to see any exhibits they might use if Bulger did testify.

Judge Denise Casper said she interpreted the photos “to be in anticipation of Mr. Bulger possibly taking the stand.”

Wyshak said he believed the defense released the photos to try to circumvent the judge's order that attorneys on both sides follow a local rule that limits what they can say to the media during a trial. But Casper said she did not see the filing of the photos as violating her order.

In testimony Thursday, former FBI Agent Matthew Cronin said he warned his superiors at the FBI in 1982 that a Bulger associate, Edward “Brian” Halloran, was in danger of being killed.

The defense called Cronin to suggest that it was Bulger's associate Stephen “the Rifleman” Flemmi, not the defendant, who wanted to kill Halloran.

Cronin said a woman told him that Flemmi had found out that Halloran was providing information to authorities about the Bulger gang's involvement in a 1981 killing.

Cronin said that despite repeated meetings he had with FBI supervisors, nothing was done and Halloran was shot to death in May 1982. Bulger is accused of fatally shooting Halloran and Michael Donahue, an innocent bystander who had offered Halloran a ride home that night.

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