The retrial is set to begin today in the Federal Courthouse (Newark) for Paul Bergrin, the once-prominent Newark defense lawyer, accused of ordering the murder of a federal drug informant in 2004. Bergrin’s last trial ended in a hung jury more than 400 days ago, after Bergrin raged that he was being set up by cooperating witnesses and corrupt government prosecutors.
The difference is that the 2011 trial only pertained to 2 counts of murder. (The remaining counts were severed by U.S. District Court Judge William J. Martini, who the U.S. Court of Appeals later ruled was not to preside over the retrial.) The retrial will include the additional 24 counts pending against Bergrin that were severed from his first trial, including racketeering, cocaine trafficking, witness tampering, fraud, and running a prostitution ring.
Among the new issues Bergrin faces is a tape that the federal government is seeking to introduce as evidence, which is allegedly Bergrin talking about a “hit” – the very “hit” that gave rise to the 2 murder counts.
Courtroom watchers say that if there is anyone who can convince a jury that all 26 counts are all part of a grand conspiracy, it is Bergrin. In 2011, the core of his defense was that the government’s witnesses were all convicted criminals who, in exchange for their testimony against him, would serve less time in prison. It is expected that his defense in this retrial will be much the same. For more information, see the Star Ledger article entitled, “Second trial of Paul Bergrin opens today, 426 days after hung jury on murder charges.”
Having seen Bergrin in action in courtrooms around the State, I can personally attest to his decorum, which is best described by the word “charisma.” He is compelling, convincing, and ruthless in his attacks upon opposing counsel and witnesses. While the evidence against him appears to be mountainous, I have to agree with courtroom watchers that if anyone can beat this 26 count federal indictment, it’s him. It will be interesting to follow this retrial.