One of New Jersey's most notorious attorneys is behind bars, accused of trying to have government informants killed in order to keep his own clients out of prison. 53-year-old Paul Bergrin, a former Assistant US Attorney, faces a life sentence if found guilty of helping his clients order hits on witnesses.
In one 2004 case, the FBI says Bergrin suggested felony drug client, William Baskerville, could escape prison time if baskerville's cousins hired a hit man to kill a government informant named Kimo Deshawn McCray. McCray was subsequently gunned down as he walked with his stepfather near a Newark convenience store.
"Mr. Bergrin was directly involved in the planning of eliminating that witness, and after that he left it to the other people to actually shoot the witness," said Newark US Attorney Ralph Marra, Jr.
Bergrin is no stranger to high publicity cases and bad publicity for himself. The Newark-based defense lawyer has represented stars from Queen Latifah to Lil' Kim
Earlier this month, Bergrin pled guilty to a charge he helped run a Prostitution ring, while it's founder, Manhattan pimp Jason Itzler, served prison time. Itzler, one of Bergrin's former clients, claims to have launched the call girl career of Ashley Dupre, the prostitute who helped end the career of former New York Governor Elliot Spitzer.
Aside from conspiring to kill McCray in 2004, the federal indictment says Bergrin again tried to eliminate a witness 6 months ago. The FBI claims to have recorded conversations from December of 2008, in which Bergrin personally tries to enlist the services of a Chicago hit man. This time the request was allegedly to kill a witness in a Monmouth County drug case. Prosecutors say the hit man was actually cooperating with the Feds, so the witness was never in danger.
"He is claiming his innocence," said Bergrin's defense attorney Gerald Shargel. "As I said, he intends to plead not guilty to each and every one of the charges in the indictment."
If convicted, Bergrin could face life in prison. He is being detained until at least May 26th, when a bail hearing will be scheduled.