Globe Editorial

After 16 years of fleeing, Greig is too much of a risk to get bail

July 18, 2011

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FOR AN ordinary defendant facing a possible five-year sentence for harboring a fugitive, pre-trial detention without bail would be an extreme step. But Catherine Greig isn’t an ordinary defendant, and James ”Whitey” Bulger wasn’t an ordinary fugitive. In this most unusual of cases, pre-trial detention of Greig is not only fair, but necessary. She should not be given bail.

A key consideration in any decision to set bail is whether the defendant is likely to flee. Greig’s attorney, Kevin Reddington, argues that she lacks the money and the will to flee; her only desire was to be with the man she loved. But it would be hard for a judge to look at a woman who has just spent 16 years hiding from the FBI and say she’s not a flight risk. Fleeing has been her primary occupation for a decade and a half.

”She is just a simple woman who wants to be with her sister,” Reddington argued. But she was apparently prepared to spend the rest of her life away from her sister, had the FBI not caught up with her and Bulger.

There is another consideration: The FBI is still trying to unravel who supplied Bulger and Greig with cash or in any other way assisted in their run from the law. The two didn’t stay planted in their Santa Monica apartment, and their precise itinerary and the full extent of their activities are still unknown; it’s reasonable for federal agents to continue investigating whether they were getting support and information from other people.

If the 60-year-old Greig were free, she could potentially interfere with that investigation. Despite the restrictions on her activities and close monitoring by law enforcement, she would have far greater ability to make contact with people and institutions such as banks if she were free, rather than in jail.

The extent of Catherine Greig’s culpability in Bulger’s flight from justice is still unknown. No one has implicated her in his larger crimes, and she may well be the “simple woman’’ depicted by Reddington. But the place to address those questions is the trial court, and until she gets there, she should remain behind bars.