- Pfc. Bradley Manning’s name change to Chelsea heads to court
- NYPD’s attempt at positive Twitter outreach campaign proves to be an epic fail
- Michigan man among first in U.S. to get ‘bionic eye’
- JetBlue pilots vote to unionize; 2 previous attempts failed
- Pentagon plans to replace flight crews with ‘full-time’ robots
- Navy’s military dolphins may meet Putin’s porpoises in Black Sea
- Forget the Porsche — it’s the guy with the Prius that attracts the ladies, poll shows
- Fired Russian Facebook CEO says site has fallen in the hands of pro-Putin supporters
- Sen. Boozman of Arkansas has emergency heart surgery
- Brazil embraces drones to save the Amazon rain forest
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."
U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, who worked briefly alongside Bergrin when both were assistant U.S. attorneys in New Jersey, said the verdict reflected a "stunning fall from grace."
"I take no joy from this verdict," Fishman said. "But his conduct over many years was a betrayal of his law enforcement colleagues and of the court."
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.
"This time the jury got to evaluate the full measure of all the conduct with which Bergrin was charged," Fishman said.
TWT Video Picks
Feds who send arms against ranch families betray American values
- CARSON: When government looks more like foe than friend
- Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy hailed as patriot, renegade
- Tactical advantage: Russian military shows off impressive new gear
- IRS revokes conservative group's tax-exempt status over anti-Clinton statements: report
- America is an oligarchy, not a democracy or republic, university study finds
- ORTEL: Putin sees opportunities as Obama turns away
- Inside China: Marine's comment on islands draws sharp Chinese response
- Supreme Court upholds Michigan affirmative action ban
- Michelle Obama: Obama family Sundays are more for napping than church
- Bonuses given to IRS employes who owed back taxes
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.