Paul W. Bergrin, a former defense lawyer who has been accused of plotting to kill government witnesses with drug dealers, will be tried for racketeering. U.S. District Judge Dennis M. Cavanaugh said in his ruling that prosecutors working the case can try Bergrin on 26 counts that claim he conspired to commit acts of murder, cocaine trafficking, witness tampering, bribery, prostitution, traveling in aid of a racketeering enterprise and money laundering, according to NorthJersey.com.
Bergrin has asked to be tried separately on two of the charges filed against him; murder and conspiracy, which were from the role he played in the 2004 killing of Kemo Deshawn McCray. McCray was an informant for the FBI who was supposed to testify against a drug client of Bergrin. He was killed by gunfire in Newark. Bergrin used to workfor Essex County as an assistant prosecutor. He requested that he be tried separately on the murder counts so he could receive a fair trial. If he is convicted of the crime he faces life in prison, which is a mandatory sentence.
Bergrin, according to Cavanaugh, was trying to “to construct a prohibited detour around” the charges of racketeering filed against him. Cavanaugh also said that Bergrin is “entitled to a fair trial, not a trial of his choosing.”
Lawrence Lustberg, the standby counsel for Bergrin, said, “We’re disappointed, but Mr. Bergrin is prepared to proceed and he believes he will be acquitted of all the charges.”
Cavanaugh was assigned to the trial back in August and is determined to begin the trial on October 1. He said that 500 questionnaires have already been sent out to potential jurors for the case. The trial might not start by October 1 though as Cavanaugh met with lawyers and discussed Bergrin needing to undergo a medical procedure that was not disclosed to the public. He has been in custody since his arrest in May of 2009.
Bergrin, from Nutley, New Jersey, has been accused of using his law firm in Newark to smuggle cocaine, tamper with witnesses using bribery, murder, intimidation and attempted murder. Bergrin has also been accused of plotting with a lawyer from Paramus named Thomas Moran. The two were planning to hire a hit man back in 2008 to kill witnesses that were going to testify against a client in jail who was waiting for a trial on cocaine trafficking charges.
Moran and former Bergrin client, Vicente Esteves, will testify against Bergrin in the trial. They both have pled guilty to similar charges. Bergrin was reportedly recorded telling the hit-man to make the killing appear to be a home-invasion robbery gone bad.