BOSTON (Reuters) - Attorneys for accused crime boss James "Whitey" Bulger pleaded for more time on Monday to prepare a defense against charges that he committed or ordered 19 murders in the 1970s and 1980s as the leader of Boston's Winter Hill gang.
Defense attorney J.W. Carney told a magistrate court judge in Boston that he planned to file a motion this week requesting additional time to review the evidence that the federal government has amassed against his 83-year-old client.
He said it would take the defense team until May to review thousands of pages of evidence.
Bulger's trial already has been postponed once and is due to begin in March 2013.
Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler, who granted a four-month postponement in June, appeared unsympathetic to the idea of another delay.
"You wanted everything and you wanted it in every possible combination ... I'm sorry but it's up to you to organize it," Bowler told Carney, of the Boston law firm Carney & Bassil. The judge, however, did not say how she would rule on such a motion.
Bulger faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted on all charges. He has pled not guilty.
He was arrested, along with girlfriend Catherine Greig, at an apartment hideout in California last year after having been on the run for 16 years and managing to blend into an ocean-side community.
Bulger had long been a fixture on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List. The FBI finally appealed to the public for help and received a tip that led to the arrests.
Greig was sentenced in June to an eight-year prison term for helping Bulger evade the authorities for so long.
Defense and prosecutors sparred on Monday over how much information was blacked out in documents submitted as evidence. Prosecutors noted that in some cases the file contained multiple copies of documents, some redacted and some not, meaning Carney was asking about information already available to the defense.
"This is kind of a sham. They are trying to find some way to delay things," Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Kelly said.
Carney countered that prosecutors were trying to overwhelm the defense by offering duplicate copies of the same documents.
"It was a shameful shenanigan designed to do exactly what it is doing - waste our time," Carney said.
Relatives of Bulger's alleged victims said they worried the delays might mean the defendant could die before a trial was held. Bulger did not attend the hearing on Monday.
"I'd be a little upset" if Bulger died before the trial, said Steven Davis, whose 26-year-old sister Debra was among Bulger's alleged victims.
Prosecutors contend that Bulger fled after getting a tip from a corrupt FBI official that he was about to be arrested. Bulger's story inspired Martin Scorsese's 2006 Academy Award-winning film "The Departed."
(Reporting By Scott Malone; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Paul Simao)