Criminal Justice

Once-prominent lawyer gets life term in federal racketeering and witness-murder conspiracy case


Criminal defense attorney Paul Bergrin beat the rap in his first trial on some of the counts he faced in an unusual criminal case in which he was charged with operating his New Jersey law firm as a racketeering enterprise. It concluded two years ago with a hung jury.

But he was convicted in March on 23 counts, recounts the Star-Ledger, in an article that includes information from wire reports. The counts include three which carry a mandatory life sentence without parole: conspiracy to murder a federal witness who had informed against Bergrin’s client; aiding the murder of the witness; and a racketeering count involving similar allegations.

On Monday the 57-year-old former state and federal prosecutor was sentenced to six life terms plus additional time, all to run concurrently, in federal court in Newark, reports another Star-Ledger article.

The once-prominent defense attorney, known for his representation of gang members and rap artists, stood in jail garb, a chain around his waist, and showed no emotion as U.S. District Judge Dennis Cavanaugh announced the sentence he was imposing on each count. Bergrin, who represented himself at trial with the help of standby counsel, had argued to no avail for the judge to depart from the lengthy terms expected by observers.

“I stand before you as humble as a human being can be. I have been brought as low as a person can possibly be brought,” said Bergrin, at one point during his 40-minute presentation. But, vowing to appeal his jury conviction, he also said, “I am not broken.”

A press release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office provides further details.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Is lawyer ‘a drug dealer, a pimp and a murderer’? Bergrin says he’s innocent, calls witnesses liars”

ABAJournal.com: “Jury hears law office tape, is told attorney Paul Bergrin talked of witness hits, making $1M weekly”

ABAJournal.com: “Fellow lawyer who took plea tells jury Paul Bergrin tried to ‘get to’ witnesses against clients”

ABAJournal.com: “Ex-prosecutor guilty of law firm racketeering shouldn’t have tried his own case, juror says”

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