A New Jersey lawyer who went from being a prosecutor to representing gangsters and drug kingpins and becoming a huge criminal himself will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Paul Bergrin, 57, got a life sentence Monday for running an illegal law practice that bore a striking resemblance to that of the “Breaking Bad” character Saul Goodman. Unless he wins an appeal, he’ll spend the rest of his life behind bars there since there’s no parole for federal prisoners.
Bergrin used his Newark, N.J., law practice as a front for prostitution and drug trafficking, prosecutors say. He allegedly had witnesses killed to protect his drug business.
A criminal who was a fan of Bergrin’s had a tattoo with the quote “‘No witness, no case’ — Paul Bergrin,” an attorney who knew Bergrin told New York Magazine.
Among the worst allegations against him is that he arranged for the murder of FBI informant Kemo Deshawn McCray, the Newark Star-Ledger reported.
The confessed gunman, Anthony Young, testified that Bergrin appeared on a darkened street to warn his client’s fellow gang members that McCray’s testimony could land his client in prison for life, according to the Star-Ledger.
“No Kemo, no case,” Bergrin allegedly said.
Bergrin began his career at the Essex County Prosecutor’s office where he “forged a reputation as a square-jawed inquisitor of the local criminal class,” according to a New York Magazine profile called “The Baddest Lawyer in the History of New Jersey.”
He later worked for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark before opening his own practice and representing the likes of Lil’ Kim, murderers, pimps, and “bum-check-passing beauty queens,” New York Magazine reported.
Bergrin was indicted for racketeering, money laundering, murder, and other offenses in 2009, but his first trial ended with a hung jury, the Newark Star-Ledger reported. He was finally found guilty of 23 counts including murder in March, The New York Times reported at the time.
Bergrin said at the time he planned to appeal. His website says he’s a “political prisoner” and a “zealous advocate for justice.”
New Jersey US Attorney Paul Fishman, who was a prosecutor with Bergrin, told the Times that the conviction was a “stunning fall from grace.”
“I have enormous respect and affection for my colleagues who do defence work,” Fishman told The Times.
“What Bergrin did is crossing a line, that is, tampering with the system in the most horrible way.
“That’s not what zealous representation means or requires.”
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