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Trials & Litigation

Jury Still Deliberating in Criminal Case Against NJ Lawyer Accused of Plotting Witness Hit

Posted Nov 18, 2011 8:33 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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It's going to be a long weekend for New Jersey lawyer Paul Bergrin.

A federal jury in Newark has deliberated for three days without reaching a verdict in a criminal case that could put the well-known criminal defense attorney behind bars for the rest of his life, report the Record and the Star-Ledger.

A skilled trial attorney, the 55-year-old Bergrin defended himself, with the help of a second-chair lawyer, in an unusual case in which he is accused of orchestrating a witness hit in order to help a client avoid conviction and prevent his own exposure as an alleged cocaine supplier to a Newark drug gang.

If the former state and federal prosecutor is convicted of either aiding, abetting and inducing the murder of a witness, FBI informant Kemo Deshawn McCray, 30, who was slain in 2004, or conspiracy to murder a witness, Bergrin could be sentenced to life without parole.

The two counts were originally part of 33-count Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act case against Bergrin in which he is accused of running his law firm as a criminal enterprise, along with a cocaine-dealing business and a high-end prostitution ring. However, U.S. District Judge William J. Martini granted Bergrin's motion to sever the other 31 counts, because they might have unduly prejudiced the seven-man, five-woman anonymous jury against him, the Star-Ledger reports.

He is expected to be tried subsequently on the other counts.

Although multiple witnesses testified against him in the current trial, Bergrin sought, with some success, to portray them as unreliable convicted felons who are cooperating with the government and lying about him in order to win lighter sentences, according to news stories. He also contends the government is presenting witnesses whose accounts it knows to be false, the Star-Ledger reports.

Among the cooperating witnesses were Thomas Moran, an attorney who worked with Bergrin, and an employee in Bergrin's law office, Abdul Williams, with a lengthy criminal history.

Deliberations are expected to resume on Monday morning.

A Star-Ledger page links to the newspaper's full trial coverage.

Additional coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Drug Dealers Made Up Story of Witness Murder Conspiracy, Pro Se Defense Lawyer Tells Federal Jury"

Star-Ledger: "Paul Bergrin murder trial: Bergrin continues cross-examination of key prosecution witness"

Associated Press: "Jury hears closing in NJ attorney’s murder trial"

Reuters: "Jury still out in NJ murder trial of former prosecutor"

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