Photo: AP/Mike Derer
New Jersey’s most infamous defender of drug lords, gang members, and pimps, Paul Bergrin, was back in Newark federal court on Tuesday and facing a laundry list of charges from drug trafficking to racketeering.The man dubbed by New York Magazine as “the baddest lawyer in the history of New Jersey” is on trial for the second time, after a hung jury failed to convict him in November 2011, Reuters reports.
He’s accused of using his law practice to promote prostitution, orchestrate the 2004 murder of federal informant Kemo DeShawn McCray, and plot to kill witnesses, along with 24 other counts.
Bergrin, who has been in federal custody since his arrest in 2009, claims the government’s case is shaky because it relies on the testimony of career criminals trying to reduce their prison sentences.
“You’ll find in this case conclusively that you can’t trust any of the witnesses against me,” Bergrin, who is representing himself, told the jury during opening arguments on Tuesday, according to Reuters.
The Bentley-driving attorney also represented himself in 2011 when he was tried the first time.
The first presiding judge in the case wouldn’t allow the government to introduce evidence about two murders in which Bergrin had allegedly been involved. Then the prosecution team asked the case to be reheard, accusing the judge in the first trial of favouring Bergrin, WSJ Law Blog reported.
Federal prosecutors say they have a smoking gun that will make the murder and conspiracy charges stick – a tape of Bergrin allegedly ordering a “hit” on a witness who would testify against his client, drug trafficker Vicente Esteves, the Newark Star-Ledger reports.
“We gotta make it look like a robbery. It cannot under any circumstances look like a hit,” he says on the tape, according to a recent legal opinion issued by U.S. District Judge Dennis M. Cavanaugh cited by the Star-Ledger.
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