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US Gangster Appears in Court to Face Murder Charges

FBI Special Agent Mary Prang sets up a 'wanted' poster overstamped 'captured' for James 'Whitey' Bulger, before a news conference at FBI headquarters in Los Angeles, June 23, 2011

A gangster in U.S. custody after 16 years on the run has appeared in federal court in the eastern state of Massachusetts to face charges he committed 19 murders.

James "Whitey" Bulger faced several judges Friday in a Boston court, after appearing in handcuffs under tight security.

Bulger asked for a public defender. But prosecutors objected, citing the $800,000 found in the Santa Monica, California, apartment where he and his long-time girlfriend, Catherine Greig, were arrested Wednesday.

Bulger's brother, William, once the president of the Massachusetts senate, was in the courtroom audience.

Greig appeared separately Friday in the Boston court on charges of harboring a fugitive.

The 81-year-old Bulger was leader of the violent Winter Hill Gang in Boston, a largely Irish mob that ran criminal ventures. He had a $2 million reward to his name and rose to number one on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list after the death last month of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Bulger was once an FBI informant. He provided the law enforcement agency with tips about his gang's main rival, the New England Mob.

His legend as a fugitive grew over the years. Many books have been written about him, and he was the inspiration for a character played by actor Jack Nicholson in the 2006 film, "The Departed."

The arrest of Bulger and the 60-year-old Greig came less than two days after the FBI sparked new interest in the case by using a 30-second TV ad aimed at women around Greig's age, to determine her whereabouts and ultimately his.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.