Posted Jan 23, 2013 05:01 pm CST
The courtroom in Newark was packed Tuesday, as opening arguments began in the federal trial of a once-prominent New Jersey criminal defense attorney, who is accused of operating his law firm as a racketeering enterprise.
Paul Bergrin, 57, used his law firm as a cover for criminal activity he orchestrated between 2001 and 2009 to “satisfy his personal lust for wealth and success,” prosecutor John Gay told the jury. Clients of the “full service provider” could count on Bergrin, who himself is a former state and federal prosecutor, to do whatever it took to win the case, Gay said, contending that the defendant, before his May 2009 arrest, was involved in supplying kilos of cocaine to a Newark gang, operating a New York prostitution business and witness-tampering, including giving instructions to kill adverse witnesses, according to the Record and the Star-Ledger.
“This case is about a lawyer who used his law license to disguise the fact that he was a drug dealer, a pimp and a murderer,” said Gay, in what the Record describes as a “riveting” opening statement in the murder and racketeering case.
But Bergrin, who is serving as his own trial lawyer, also came out swinging. Insisting that he is the innocent victim of a prosecutorial conspiracy built on unreliable low-life witnesses and convicted felons who lied about him to win sentence reductions. Bergrin told the jury to watch for the lies and fabrications he said government witnesses will try to pass off as the truth and urged the jury to keep an open mind about the case, the newspapers recount.
“You are going to hear and you are going to experience in this case the darkest side of justice that any human being could imagine. It’s going to turn your stomach,” Bergrin told the jurors in a thundering salvo. Arguing that reasonable doubt precludes his conviction on the 26 counts he faces, he boomed: “You are the judges of the facts, not them!”
Reuters also has a story.
As detailed in earlier ABAJournal.com posts, Bergrin previously won a mistrial in a trial of some of the counts:
ABAJournal.com: “Attorney Paul Bergrin’s Biggest Trial is About to Begin: His Own Racketeering Case”
ABAJournal.com: “Pro Se Ex-Prosecutor Accused of Conspiring to Murder an FBI Informant Wins a Mistrial”
Updated at 12:48 p.m. to link to Reuters article.