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Criminal Justice

Defense Attorney Gets Out of Solitary After Nearly 6 Months

Posted Nov 13, 2009 1:25 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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After nearly six months in solitary confinement in a windowless cell for 23 hours a day, attorney Paul Bergrin will now be released into the general prison population, a federal judge decided yesterday.

Accused of racketeering and witness tampering up to and including murder, the well-known 53-year-old defense lawyer had been segregated to protect other inmates, reports the Newark Star-Ledger. However, Bergrin has obeyed prison rules and none of the inmates in the prison are witnesses in his case, said U.S. District Judge William Martini.

"Mr. Bergrin is slowly but surely going crazy. He is distracted. He is unfocused. He is divorced from reality in certain ways," argued his attorney, Lawrence Lustberg, at yesterday's hearing in federal court in Newark.

Perhaps more critical to Martini's decision, however, is that Bergrin's continued solitary confinement could hamper his defense, reports the Asbury Park Press.

"The last thing we want is to have an issue of whether he is able to assist his counsel,'' said Martini.

Bergrin has been in solitary in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn since June, the Asbury Park newspaper notes.

The defense had intended to ask for bail for Bergrin yesterday, but the bail hearing has been postponed so that Bergrin's lawyers can first review a new indictment adding 39 more counts to the case against him. Among other charges, it accuses him of involvement in a cocaine operation that allegedly stored hundreds of kilos in a Newark property in which Bergrin had an ownership interest.

A former state and federal prosecutor in New Jersey, Bergrin is known for defending high-profile clients including rap artists and gang members.

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Feds Say Indicted NJ Lawyer Had 8 Cases in Which Witnesses Died or Lied"

ABAJournal.com: "Ex-Prosecutor Tied to More Crimes Targeting Witnesses, Indictment Says"

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