Southie solace

BOSTON - Ending a 16-year international manhunt, legendary Irish-American gangster James "Whitey" Bulger was arraigned in a Boston courtroom last week after being captured last Wednesday outside an apartment in Santa Monica, California, where he and his girlfriend, Catherine Greig, had been living for the past 15 years under the aliases of Charlie and Carol Gasko.

The 81-year-old mobster and 60-year-old Greig had been on the run since 1995, when Bulger fled boston after learning of an imminent federal indictment for racketeering and related crimes.

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The pair appeared in federal court in South Boston late Friday afternoon for initial hearings. Outside courtroom 10, a court officer held back a throng of media and spectators who surged forward when the doors were opened.

"We're not going to have a riot here" he said as he and fellow officers took control of the crowd, many of whom had been waiting in line for hours to get a glimpse of the notorious criminal.

As he was led into the courtroom in handcuffs, Bulger smiled and nodded at his brother, William, the former president of the Massachusetts Senate and former president of the University of Massachusetts, who sat in the second row.

Bald, bespectacled, and dressed in a white hooded shirt, blue jeans and sneakers, Bulger appeared to be in good shape, both physically and mentally.He was alert and attentive throughout his two brief hearings before separate magistrates, softly responding "yes, your honor" when inquiries were made about his understanding of the process.

When asked if he could afford a lawyer, Bulger drew a mixed reaction of muffled chuckles and groans when he replied, "I could if they gave me my money back. That's the only way I could afford it.

"Bulger was referring to the $800,000 in cash that was seized from his California apartment after his arrest. Also discovered at the apartment was an assortment of weapons, ammunition, and a punching bag which he used for exercise.

As he was led out of the courtroom for the final time after his second hearing, Bulger turned to look twice at his brother.

His second glance, which conveyed none of his reputed bravado, seemed to be one of anguish, with tension in his smile and fear in his eyes.

William Bulger, who is now 77, had expressed sympathy for the families of his brother's victims in a statement released earlier in the week. After the proceedings, he said that he did not want to add to that statement at this time.

Asked by reporters what thoughts he had while seeing his brother under these circumstances, he said, "I didn't know what to think."

Greig's twin sister, Margaret McCusker, sat in the front row during the hearings. Greig appeared sullen, but perked up as she was led out, smiling broadly and raising her eyebrows as she looked at her sister.

Outside the courtroom, McCusker offered little comment but seemed relieved that her sister, despite facing prison tine for harboring a fugitive, was back home.

Greig is being held without bail at the Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls, Rhode Island, while Bulger is in maximum security at the Plymouth County Correctional Facility.

Speaking to reporters outside the courthouse, Patricia Donahue and her son, Tommy, spoke about seeing the man who is charged with killing her husband and his father, Michael Donahue.

Patricia Donahue was in her 30s when her husband was allegedly murdered by Bulger on May 11, 1982 while Donahue was giving a ride home to Brian Halloran, who happened to be on Bulger's hit list at the time. Both men were shot to death.

She told reporters that she was surprised at how "meek" Bulger seemed in court, and she lashed out at the FBI for taking so long to bring him to justice.

"I believe that they knew where he was, and nobody did anything about it," she said.

Her son Tommy echoed those sentiments, while saying that he had a "horrible feeling" when his father's alleged killer came into the court.

"If the FBI did their job a long time ago, we wouldn't be here," he said. "My father would be alive."

Bulger's capture was the result of 30-second public service announcements which aired early last week on daytime TV, targeting Greig and her fondness for hair salons and plastic surgery.

The tipster is believed to be a woman in Iceland who saw a segment on cable TV about the public service announcements. She evidently had some contact with the fugitives when she was in California.

The ruse which led to the capture involved Bulger being told that someone had broken into his underground storage locker. When he came outside in response, he was arrested.

Although there is no death penalty in Massachusetts, Bulger is also wanted in two other states, Florida and Oklahoma, where authorities may seek the death penalty,