- Records: Man in Fla. theater shooting also was texting
- The Putin problem: U.S. needs Russian rockets for spy satellites
- Florida cops ticket toddler in toy convertible: report
- Kerry warns of ‘very serious’ response to Crimea-Russia alliance
- Fla. Rep. Alan Grayson’s wife drops restraining order against him
- McDonald’s lawsuits filed over wages ‘stolen’ like Hamburglar steals Big Macs
- HUMPHRIES: Fight like a Democrat – An open letter to Sen. Mitch McConnell
- Florida board member shocks with ‘Heil Hitler’ salute at town meeting
- Bill O’Reilly, Chris Matthews inducted into Irish America Hall of Fame
- Military given ‘execute order’ by Obama for secret cyber mission in June
Lawyer to celebs guilty in racketeering case
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - A once-prominent New Jersey defense attorney whose clients included entertainers and rap stars was convicted Monday of operating a racketeering enterprise that included the murder of a witness and engaged in prostitution, drugs, and witness tampering.
A federal jury deliberated for a full day and parts of two others before coming back with guilty verdicts on all 23 counts against Paul Bergrin, a pugnacious former federal prosecutor who once represented an Army reservist charged in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq in addition to celebrities Queen Latifah and Lil' Kim, and the group Naughty By Nature.
One of the counts is a murder count that carries a mandatory life sentence.
Bergrin, who represented himself during the trial, didn’t say anything after the verdict was read. Lawrence Lustberg, an attorney who has been advising Bergrin through this trial and a previous one that ended in a hung jury, said afterward that his client would file an appeal. Lustberg called the verdict surprising.
“We thought the jury would take much longer given the number and complexity of the charges,” he said. “We’re concerned that all the nuances of the evidence weren’t considered.”
One of the alleged murder plots was hatched in 2004, when Bergrin was representing a client in a drug case, prosecutors said. A potential witness, Kemo Deshawn McCray, was gunned down on a Newark street. Bergrin was alleged to have told his client’s confederates, “No Kemo, no case.”
Another plot allegedly involved a drug case in Monmouth County in 2008. In that one, Bergrin was recorded allegedly telling an informant posing as a hit man to “make it look like a robbery.”
Bergrin has been in jail since his arrest in 2009 along with several other defendants, including another attorney. All have pleaded guilty, and several testified against him over the course of two trials.
A key turning point in the nearly 4-year-old prosecution came last June when the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia took the rare step of removing the judge from Bergrin’s first trial from the case, citing questions raised by prosecutors over his impartiality.
U.S. District Judge William J. Martini initially threw out the racketeering counts, but they were reinstated on appeal. He also severed two murder counts from the original indictment, and excluded some evidence from the first trial. That trial ended in a hung jury in the fall of 2011.
For the recent trial, U.S. District Judge Dennis Cavanaugh allowed the government to try Bergrin on all counts he faced, except several tax fraud charges that will be considered separately.
TWT Video Picks
By Emily Miller
Obama is losing the debate on gun ownership, concealed-carry permits
- USS Kidd sent to Indian Ocean after 'indication' of Malaysian jet crash
- Oil rig worker says he saw missing plane go down: report
- F-35 secrets now showing up in Chinas stealth fighter
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- GOP bill tries to pull courts into fight with Obama on executive power, enforcing laws
- MILLER: Law enforcement realizes good people with guns deter crime
- Ben Carson: America's now 'very much like Nazi Germany'
- College group's diversity event canceled after excluding white people
- Critics point to Obama's attempts to sell health care as no laughing matter
- Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee claims Constitution is 400 years old
Chaos as Manhattan building explodes
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again