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Pro Se Defense Attorney to Be Shocked If He Leaves Authorized Courtroom Area During RICO Trial

Posted Sep 19, 2011 1:01 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Four U.S. marshals will be in the courtroom as attorney Paul Bergrin goes on trial in federal court in Newark, N.J., next month. He faces a racketeering case in which he is accused of operating his law firm as a criminal enterprise and conspiring with another New Jersey lawyer to murder government witnesses.

But that's not not enough security, court officials apparently have decided. Bergrin, who is defending himself pro se, will also wear a hidden ankle bracelet, reports the Bergen Record. If he moves too far from his assigned area of the courtroom and violates rules against approaching the bench or the jury, he could get a jolting electric shock from the marshals, via the bracelet.

"You will be struck with a shock if you do something foolish,” U.S. District Judge William J. Martini told Bergrin, a former state and federal prosecutor, as trial arrangements were discussed Friday.

The marshals will have discretion to decide whether to shock Bergrin, the newspaper says. Two will sit behind him and two more will be stationed in the corners on either side of the judge and jury. The names of the members of the jury will not be publicly disclosed.

Bergrin is accused of operating his law office in Newark as a criminal enterprise. It allegedly was involved in crimes including murder for hire, witness tampering and cocaine trafficking, the newspaper reports, in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

He has pleaded not guilty.

Bergrin is seeking to have the court bifurcate his case, so that he first stands trial only for the 2004 murder of an FBI informant who was killed before he could testify against a Bergrin client facing drug charges.

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Attorney Paul Bergrin’s Biggest Trial is About to Begin: His Own Racketeering Case"

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