Paul W. Bergrin of Nutley, once labeled “the baddest lawyer” in New Jersey, was sentenced last week to six life terms in prison, six months after a jury convicted him on 23 criminal counts, including racketeering, drug and prostitution offenses and conspiracy to murder a witness.
Bergrin, 57, a federal prosecutor- turned-defense attorney, turned his law firm into “a racketeering enterprise,” U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said in a statement issued after the Sept. 23 sentencing in Newark Federal Court.
Bergrin had been convicted in March, following a two-month trial before U.S. District Judge Dennis M. Cavanaugh, who also imposed the sentence.
Bergrin, in custody since 2009, formerly had a client list ranging from celebrities to drug lords. His first trial, two years ago, had ended in a hung jury. The proceedings this year lasted two months; the jury returned with its guilty verdicts after just two days of deliberations.
Fishman’s post-sentencing statement noted that, according to case documents, evidence at trial and statements made in court:
“Through his law firm, Bergrin conspired to tamper with witnesses, distribute cocaine and facilitate drug trafficking, prostitution and bribery . . . . “
He conspired to murder witnesses to protect the drug trafficking enterprise, one of whom was shot to death to prevent him from testifying in court.”
That witness was an FBI informant, Kemo Deshawn McCray, who was shot in the back of the head on a Newark street in 2004. At Bergrin’s trial, the gunman, Anthony Young, testified that the attorney had advised members of his client’s gang, “No Kemo, no case.”
“Paul Bergrin’s betrayal of the people he once served, the court and the rule of law was stunning,” said Fishman.
In addition to the life sentences, Cavanaugh added more than 200 years on some of the other 23 counts.
There is no parole in the federal system.
According to published reports, Bergrin intends to appeal.
– Karen Zautyk