A federal judge in Boston denied on Tuesday a request that he recuse himself from the James "Whitey" Bulger murder trial, saying the defense made "untrue accusations" about his ability to remain impartial.
"No reasonable person would doubt my impartiality," said U.S. District Judge Richard G. Stearns.
Lawyers representing Bulger—a former mob boss who lived for 15 years on the lam in Santa Monica—argued that Stearns should step down from the case because he worked as a prosecutor and as the chief of the criminal division in the Massachusetts United States Attorney’s Office during the 1980s while its investigators compiled evidence on the former mob boss.
At the time, Bulger was reportedly granted immunity because he was working as an informant for the FBI. He's now awaiting trial for 19 murders.
Lawyers representing Bulger will argue he should not be prosecuted because he had immunity. They have said they might call Stearns as a witness as part of their motion to dismiss the charges.
Stearns said he did not "participate in or have any knowledge of any case or investigation in which defendant was a subject or target." Still, having known or worked previously with lawyers or potential witnesses in a case is not grounds for recusal, he said.
"It would be institutionally irresponsible for me, or for that matter, any other judge, to enter a recusal in a case where a party has chosen to make untrue accusations in the possible hope of subverting that process, or at the very least, forcing a delay of a trial by injecting a diversionary issue into the proceedings," Stearns said.
Also today, a federal magistrate judge lifted a protective order limiting the disclosure of evidence gathered by the government in the case, boston.com reported. Visit the Boston Globe's website for the full story on the court records.