Posted Jun 07, 2011 05:10 pm CDT
In a new racketeering indictment that reads like the latest John Grisham legal thriller, an imprisoned New Jersey criminal defense attorney is now accused of additional crimes, including witness tampering and drug trafficking.
Reiterating prior allegations that Paul Bergrin arranged to murder one witness and plotted to murder another, in order to prevent clients in his law practice from being convicted, the superseding federal indictment made public yesterday also for the first time accused the 55-year-old attorney and former state and federal prosecutor of paying an innocent individual to serve as the fall guy for an employee of his law firm in a gun possession case, according to the Asbury Park Press and Newark Star-Ledger.
Once the alleged law firm employee was released as a result of the false confession, authorities contend, the claimed employee, who is identified only by his initials, assisted Bergrin and other individuals “in distributing kilogram quantities of cocaine,” the Star Ledger reports, quoting from the indictment.
Attorney Lawrence Lustberg is representing Bergrin. The new indictment “appears to vastly expand the charges against Mr. Bergrin, beyond what was already a massive, unwieldy indictment, piling charge upon charge in a way that will make a fair trial, as a practical matter, impossible,” he told the Star-Ledger in an email.
If convicted in the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations case, Bergrin could be sentenced to as much as life in prison.
Earlier related coverage:
ABAJournal.com: “Former Prosecutor and Chief City Judge Admits Arranging for Innocent Man to Make False Confession”
ABAJournal.com: “Is Ex-Prosecutor Accused of Trying to Arrange Witness Murders Now Cooperating with Feds?”