After calling almost 50 witnesses during more than six weeks of trial, the Government rested its case yesterday against Paul Bergrin, who stands charged with offenses included murder,conspiracy, witness tampering, and cocaine trafficking.
Following the dismissal of the jury for the day yesterday, arguments began over the logistics of producing witnesses scheduled to testify for Bergrin, many of whom are convicted felons serving sentences in prisons around the country.
Bergrin proclaimed that he could not “prejudiced” by having certain “critical witnesses” precluded from testifying because of logistics. But U.S. District Judge Dennis M. Cavanaugh told Bergrin that there are limitations on what he can do. “I do not run the U.S. Marshals,” he was quoted as saying.
Although Bergrin says his case should only take a week to 10 days to present, there is one witness who cannot be produced to testify before March 28th. Judge Cavanaugh said that he is not inclined to delay the trial for more than a day or two to allow for the transfer of prisoners from out of state. He expressed concern over jurors “forgetting” things.
In an attempt to mitigate this issue, one of Bergrin’s witnesses is scheduled to testify via “live video conferencing” from Jamaica regarding melting a gun that was allegedly used in the murder of an FBI informant. There are other concerns, however.
Bergrin recently notified the Government of his intention to call an expert witness to testify as to whether the digital recorders used by informants can be tampered with. The Government objected based on the short notice.
The Government also voiced concerns about the issue of Bergrin’s witnesses invoking their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, in response to which Judge Cavanaugh arranged for two standy attorneys to be present in the event a witness needs to be counseled.
Bergrin maintained that the concerns were merely an unveiled attempt by prosecutors to “keep the truth from coming out.”
Lastly, the Government expressed its fear that Bergin would attempt to testify indirectly to the jury through the use of self-serving statements elicited from his witnesses. Judge Cavanaugh also warned Bergrin about such inadvertent testimony, reminding him that he had a right to testify if he desired.
The trial in Newark is now in its seventh week.
For more information, see the NorthJersey.com article entitled, “Bergrin prepares to mount his defense in racketeering and murder case.”