After only 14 hours of deliberation over two days, a federal jury in Newark convicted Paul Bergrin of all 23 counts for which he was standing trial, including Murder,Conspiracy to Commit Murder, Racketeering, Witness Tampering, and Drug Trafficking. Bergrin, the former Army Ranger and Federal Prosecutor who represented rap stars, drug kingpins, purported gang members, and US soldiers in Iraq during the course of his illustrious career as a criminal defense attorney, was speechless. He sat, shoulders erect in a tailored grey suit, before a courtroom packed with Federal Prosecutors, FBI agents, and other onlookers, while the foreperson read the word “guilty” 23 times. The jury was then dismissed by US District Judge Dennis Cavanaugh, who said, “It was not an easy case.”
Bergrin had fought tirelessly during the eight week trial in which he represented himself, attempting to convince the jury that he had been set up by overzealous, corrupt prosecutors who could only support their allegations through the incredible testimony of convicted felons. His tactics had worked in his first trial, which ended in a hung jury in 2011. But this time, the jury didn’t accept any of Bergrin’s protestations.
Judge Cavanaugh gave Bergrin and his standby counsel, Lawrence Lustberg, 45 days to file post-trial motions. Lustberg was quoted as saying that he and Bergrin were “very concerned” that the jury did not fully consider all of the evidence in reaching its verdict so quickly. He reiterated that he and Bergrin “have always said that it’s impossible to get a fair trial when all these things are taken together,” referring to the charges contained within the 23 counts of the Indictment. He added that they “indulge the fiction” that the jurors were capable of considering each count independently.
They will likely move for reversal on direct appeal, among other relief. According to Lustberg, they will continue to fight “until this injustice is corrected.”
US Attorney Paul Fishman was presented in the courtroom when the verdict was announced. He commended the prosecutors on a job well done and renounced Bergrin to reporters, calling his conduct “a betrayal.” He called the conviction a “stunning fall from grace.”
The prosecution spanned the timeframe from 2001-2009 and laid out at least seven different criminal schemes that Bergrin is now convicted of running. Among the most serious of the government’s allegations was that Bergrin orchestrated the killing of an FBI informant in 2004, who was slated to testify against a reputed gang member Bergrin represented. The informant was found shot in the back of the head on a Newark street. The admitted gunman testified against Bergrin, whose conviction on that count alone carries exposure to life imprisonment.
Bergrin’s sentencing has been scheduled for July 18th.
For more information, see the New Jersey Law Journal article entitled, “Former Prosecutor Convicted of Witness Murder, Racketeering” and the Star-Ledger article entitled, “Bergrin guilty on all counts, including murder and drug trafficking, in sweeping verdict.”