After seven weeks and more than 65 witnesses in total, the trial of Paul Bergrin will come to an end today, as both he and the federal prosecutors are scheduled to present their closing arguments before the jury in the Honorable Dennis Cavanaugh’s courtroom in Newark’s Federal District Court.
Bergrin, who began his legal career as a prosecutor, gained notoriety as a defense attorney – he was known for his representation of rap stars, drug kingpins, and U.S. soldiers in Iraq. His legal career came to an end in May of 2009, when he was taken in custody and charged with some of the most serious offenses known to our criminal justice system, including Murder, Racketeering, Witness Tampering, and Drug Trafficking. Some of the charges he faces carry exposure to life in prison if he is convicted.
Despite the length of the trial and the complicated, extensive nature of the case, Judge Cavanaugh has limited each side to 3 1/2 hours for closing arguments. It is a ruling consistent with his decree to keep the trial moving.
Lawrence Lustberg, who was appointed as Bergrin’s supporting counsel, was quoted as saying that he expects Bergrin’s closing to be “compelling and emotional” as well as “efficient.” When Bergrin was last tried in 2011 on just two of the 26 counts he now faces, the result was a hung jury.
Lustberg also commented on the recent frustrations expressed by Bergrin in difficulties he faced with witnesses scheduled to testify on his behalf. At least four of Bergrin’s witnesses invoked their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and refused to testify. Two more witnesses could not be brought to Newark in enough time to take the stand.
Bergrin did, however, manage to call a total of 17 witnesses to testify in his defense, including his own daughter and a former FBI agent, both of whom called into question certain evidence previously presented by the federal government. He also called a number of former clients to testify that he never asked them to do anything illegal, including one who has Bergrin’s name tattooed on his shoulder.
The trial’s result will soon be revealed.
For more information, see the Star-Ledger article entitled, “Closing arguments today in Bergrin trial, after seven weeks of high drama.”