Trials & Litigation
Jury convicts ex-prosecutor accused of operating law firm as racketeering enterprise
Posted Mar 18, 2013 1:24 PM CST
By Martha Neil
Once a prominent New Jersey criminal defense attorney, Paul Bergrin was convicted Monday by a federal jury in Newark of all 23 counts he faced in a case in which he was accused of operating his law firm as a racketeering enterprise and conspiring to murder witnesses, among other crimes.
The 57-year-old former state and federal prosecutor showed little emotion as the verdict was announced this afternoon, pursing his lips and staring down at the defense table, the Record reports. He could face as much as life in prison when he is sentenced at a later date.
The jury began deliberating late Thursday after a two-month trial at which Bergrin served as his own lead defense counsel.
He has been jailed since 2009 as he awaited trial. An earlier trial, in 2011, on some of the counts he was facing resulted in a hung jury and, after an federal appeals court ruling, his retrial included all counts and was tried before a different presiding judge.
Bergrin was accused under the Rackeeteer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act of operating his law firm as a criminal enterprise that participated in crimes including bribery, drug trafficking, money laundering, prostitution and conspiring to murder witnesses.
Although both sides were forced to rely on witnesses with issues to make their case, the government apparently was more successful in doing so. Those presented by prosecutors included a self-described former gang member who wore a wire for the feds and said he discussed with Bergrin how to murder adverse witnesses and a former attorney in Bergrin's office who said the defendant used to take contraband to imprisoned clients and discuss with them how to "get to" those expected to testify against them.
Bergrin, who also apparently faced more obstacles than the government in persuading his witnesses to testify, pointed to credibility problems with witnesses and suggested they were lying about him to get favorable treatment from the feds.
ABAJournal.com: "Jury Selection Begins in Trial of Ex-Prosecutor Accused of Operating Law Firm as RICO Enterprise"
ABAJournal.com: "Is lawyer ‘a drug dealer, a pimp and a murderer’? Bergrin says he’s innocent, calls witnesses liars"
Star-Ledger: "Prosecutor to jury: Don't let lawyer get away with murder"
Star-Ledger: "At closing arguments, Bergrin pleads innocence as prosecutor says he plotted murders"