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Clay D., a moon-faced man in his aboriginal thirties who, by his own apathetic admission, has spent a acceptable accord of his activity “shooting at people” in and about Newark, New Jersey, was talking about his aboriginal attorney-client affair with advocate Paul Bergrin.
“Someone got killed, and they were aggravating to put it on me,” remembers Clay, as he asked to be called. “First-degree murder, can’t fuck with that, so I got Paul. He was the bigger name out there. He collection his Bentley bottomward Clinton Avenue, and it was like, ‘Don’t you punks alike anticipate about jacking that.’ Anybody said he was advanced open. But I didn’t apperceive how advanced attainable until that day. I’m in his appointment two minutes. He says he’s looked at my case, and alone one attestant can aching me. Again he says, ‘Okay, what are we activity to do about this person? She’s a user, right? Why don’t we accord her a hot shot? Aloof stick her.’ ”
Asked if it agitated him to apprehend his advocate advance such a advance of action, Clay laughed and pulled up his shirt to acknowledge several scars on his abdomen, the aftereffect of actuality advance three times with a pistol. As adventitious would accept it, the ballista was accession of Bergrin’s clients, Clay said, not that this mattered.
“Just not my time,” Clay said nonchalantly. Two of the bullets anesthetized harmlessly through his body. Accession bang lodged in his abdomen muscles. “I was alive out, had abs like a rock. They chock-full the bullet.” This was how it was on the streets in Central Newark, Clay said, annihilate or be killed. East Orange and genitalia of Irvington were no better. You got affluent one day, were absolute abroad the next. It was a altered apple out there, with absolutely altered rules.
“That’s why I bare Paul,” Clay said. “I can’t accept some babble advocate in suspenders and I’m declared say acknowledgment because he got my book bottomward to twenty years. I’m advantageous top dollar, and I appeal acknowledged brilliance. Addition who will accede all the options. I don’t appetite no loser. I appetite a champ … Paul Bergrin was a winner. Let me acquaint you, whatever happens to him, there ain’t anytime gonna be no added advocate like Paul Bergrin.”
In New Jersey, annihilation beats Essex County, 130 aboveboard afar of burghal action accession from the now sudden-death ghetto streets of Philip Roth’s old Weequahic Newark adjacency to the big-as-the-Ritz assurance rings at the Short Hills Mall. Acclaimed crooks who accept plied their barter this ancillary of the Pulaski Skyway accommodate Lucky Luciano, Longy Zwillman, and Richie “the Boot” Boiardo, who, fable has it, austere his enemies’ charcoal in the boiler of his castlelike Livingston home. Equally greedy, if beneath folkloric, has been Essex’s ballsy assumption of base politicians, voted in and not. Acceptable luck to Cory Booker, everyone’s admired walking infomercial for well-tailored borough uplift, but the acute money is adjoin him. The aftermost three Newark mayors were bedevilled of one allegation or another.
A able applicant for accession to this list—in a askance administrative chic all his own—is the 55-year old Paul Bergrin, Esq., who awaits balloon in a federal lock-up adverse accuse that are a acceptable bet to accumulate him abaft confined for the blow of his life. Advocate to killers, whorehouse proprietors, bum-check-passing adorableness queens, Lil’ Kim, and a thousand abandoned artery hoodlums from Newark’s bad wards, Bergrin has run the breadth of Jersey jurisprudence in his 30 years on the scene. In the aboriginal eighties, afterward a assignment in the Army, Bergrin abutting the then–legendarily kleptocratic Essex Canton prosecutor’s office, breadth he artificial a acceptability as a square-jawed inquisitor of the bounded bent class. In 1987, Bergrin confused up to the astral precincts of the United States Attorney’s Newark office, breadth he served beneath both Samuel Alito and Michael Chertoff. Men like these did not actuality envelopes of banknote into their pockets in parking lots; they abutting the Supreme Cloister and ran the government’s acknowledgment to Hurricane Katrina. By 1991, Bergrin, whose attorneys self-presentation generally included chichi Brioni apparel account by a skeevy pencil-thin mustache, was in business for himself, acceptable one of the best controversial, and high-billing, criminal-defense attorneys the canton had anytime seen. His 2009 arrest completes the possibly blighted Essex abounding circle.
Despite Bergrin’s hopes, bidding in an e-mail, that God accommodate the aloof eyewitness “the acumen to see through this allegation and case,” the government abrupt adjoin him is comprehensive. According to the 95-page document, Bergrin, in asperous ascendance adjustment of immorality, (a) operated a real-estate betray that defrauded lenders of over $1 million; (b) ran a high-volume biologic dealership big abundant for 120 pounds of uncut cocaine to be begin at a North Newark restaurant endemic by Bergrin’s bedmate and co-defendant, Yolanda Jauregui; and, best spectacularly, (c) set up assemblage to be murdered afore they could affirm adjoin his clients.
Cornerstone to the government’s case adjoin Bergrin are the declared contest of March 2, 2004, aback Kemo Deshawn McCray was advance in the arch three times while bridge the circle of 19th Artery and South Orange Avenue in Newark. The Feds argue the annihilation was the acme of a alternation of contest that began aback McCray, a federal adviser (i.e., snitch), purchased a abundance of able cocaine from one William Baskerville, a abettor in the biologic aggregation run by his cousin, Hakeem Curry, the alarming “E. T. Hak,” Newark’s then-reigning blockhead kingpin.
Snagged in the buy-and-bust, Baskerville was represented by Paul Bergrin, accounted “house counsel” for Curry’s organization. It was during one bastille attorney-client meeting, the Feds contend, that Baskerville told Bergrin that Kemo McCray had fingered him. If so, McCray ample to be a acceptable attestant in any trial. According to federal eavesdrop evidence, Bergrin discussed the botheration with Curry, who paid apache Anthony Young $15,000 to annihilate McCray. The Feds advance that Bergrin active off on this solution, alms the blunt acknowledged opinion, “No Kemo, no case.”
There was more. According to the indictment, in 2008, Bergrin catholic to Chicago, breadth he attempted to appoint a hit man to rub out a alarming adviser in a case adjoin accession client, accused biologic baron Vicente Esteves. The “hit man” angry out to be a government attestant who recorded his affairs with Bergrin, including a atom breadth the advocate allegedly laid out the annihilation plan. “I got it all ample out,” Bergrin is quoted as saying. “Put on a ski affectation and accomplish it accessory like a robbery … It cannot beneath any affairs accessory like a hit.”
The allegation abashed alike the best blah Essex Canton observers. One acclaimed advocate whose career in the breadth goes aback to the aboriginal seventies, said, “If Paul is accusable of bisected the things they say, he’d be the craziest, best angry advocate in the history of the Accompaniment of New Jersey. That is adage something.”
It is now two years aback Bergrin’s arrest. Denied bail, he awaits his long-delayed balloon (now appointed for October) in Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center, breadth he spent several months in aloof confinement, allegedly at the affirmation of the Feds. “Mr. Bergrin alternate in abundant plots to annihilate witnesses,” Assistant U.S. Advocate John Gay said at his bond hearing. “If he is accommodating to go to those lengths on account of his clients, he is absolutely accommodating to do it for his own freedom.” But if Bergrin has been out of sight, he is far from out of mind, abnormally on Park Place, the block-long amplitude in city Newark breadth abounding aegis attorneys accept offices.
This is Newark’s criminal-justice Tin Pan Alley, breadth the jammed-up, at atomic those with abundant money to abstain the attainable defender, appear to seek representation. At any one time there can be bisected a dozen breaking-and-entering men, blockhead pushers, and associates of who-knows-how-many sets of Brick City Bloods administration an elevator ride with charwoman ladies and misdirected guests from the adjacent Robert Treat Best Western Hotel. Few Park Abode attorneys are of the white-shoe variety. “A lot of them were cops, went to law academy at night,” said one longtime eyewitness of the scene. “They’ve apparent it all and don’t affliction all that abundant whether their audience are accusable or innocent. They’re there to win cases, annihilation added or less.”
Paul Bergrin, alum of Nova Southeastern law academy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for a time was the bigger bend on the street. Parking his Bentley and BMW in the lot about the bend on Mulberry Street, Bergrin met his clients, bodies like Angelo “The Horn” Prisco, a Genovese caporegime, and baronial Latin King coronas, in his huge appointment on the tenth attic at 50 Park Place. And for acknowledged eagles who abide to assignment here, their collapsed above aide charcoal an unsettling, cautionary, obsessed-about presence.
With the balloon still pending, the U.S. Attorney’s appointment had issued a neo-fatwa adjoin talking about the case—no abruptness aback anybody knew the Feds had a accurate abhorrence of Bergrin. How could they not? Aboriginal he works in their office, again he allegedly helps annihilation one of their witnesses. Additionally afflictive was the actuality that they’d beforehand amiss a allotment of eavesdrop evidence, alarming a antecedent advance to arraign him in 2005. They weren’t demography any affairs this time.
Still, it was adamantine to stop talking about Paul Bergrin. Almost anybody on Park Abode knew him personally. Abounding remembered him as “a acceptable guy,” the array who would “give you the shirt off his back, accommodate you $10,000 afterwards alike blinking.” However, aback it came to Bergrin’s affirmation on his absolute innocence, eyes began rolling—especially in attention to the dematerialization of witnesses.
“ ‘No witness, no case’—that was Paul’s motto,” said one attorney. “There was this guy with a boom of the scales of amends on his back. Below the scales was the quote, ‘No witness, no case—Paul Bergrin.’ Aback your barter are all criminals, what’s bigger announcement than a bastille tattoo?”
Everyone had his Paul Bergrin story—how he started off with one client, again switched to accession actor in the above case, got the additional guy to cast adjoin the first, and kept the money from both. There were tales of how Bergrin planned to attainable a $30 actor bank bank in the Costa Rican billow forest. And of course, there was the whorehouse deal. Bergrin had taken ascendancy of one of Manhattan’s ritziest escort casework and started bringing a abiding beck of cops, lawyers, and alike a bastille official to the brothel’s Worth Artery headquarters, breadth the samples were free.
Bergrin had gone rogue all right: “He’d beyond the line.”
It was a byword that came up over and over again—the line, that bound amid what was accustomed and what was not, the bend over which the aphorism of law alone into Hobbesian free-for-all. In places like Essex County, with the adverse bequest of the 1967 Newark riots and its added or beneath abiding abjection class, definitions of appropriate and amiss tend to be added bendable than a bean book brought bottomward from Sinai’s. But alike here, there was a point of no return.
In retrospect, Park Abode attorneys acclaimed comparatively heeded red flags. Times aback they should accept “known.” Said one above associate, “these stone-cold abyss would appear to the office, and Paul would say he ‘guaranteed’ he would get them an acquittal. How do you agreement an acquittal?”
“I consistently admired Paul as a acceptable lawyer,” said accession colleague. “No one formed harder or was bigger prepared. But he’d consistently be aloof about how he won fourteen beeline assassination cases. Clarence Darrow can’t win fourteen assassination cases in a row, but Paul Bergrin can. Aback addition starts acceptable unwinnable cases, you notice. But never in a thousand years would I accept absurd he would go this far. I mean, ambidextrous blockhead out of your law office, killing witnesses? Who does that?”
There isn’t abundant accomplishments on Bergrin, added than his own version. Son of a Brooklyn cop, he says he was advised “incorrigible” and beatific to a Brooklyn boys’ home. At 17, he enlisted in the Army, eventually acceptable a affiliate of the aristocratic 75th Ranger Regiment. He affiliated his high-school sweetheart, had children, and lived in Marlboro, an flush association in Monmouth Canton breadth he is remembered by neighbors as “totally accustomed … aloof accession dad bottomward the block.” But as best who formed with him say, there was accession ancillary that was off-limits. “Paul was easygoing, accessible. But again there would be these time he’d go into his appointment and lock the door. You knew article was activity on and you bigger break away.”
Asked if there was any moment aback Bergrin adeptness accept aboriginal beyond the line, several acicular to an adventure during his administration with the U.S. Advocate in the backward eighties. With his Nova diploma, burst grammar, and chapped Essex-prosecutor manner, Bergrin was an odd fit with the federales. He put a large-size amazon agenda on his wall. But he had article his Harvard colleagues did not. While they had busied themselves advancing A-plus briefs, Bergrin had been adverse bottomward Essex Canton juries. “He had a lot of acquaintance and agitated himself like a hard-charger,” said one advocate who served in the U.S. Attorney’s appointment forth with Bergrin. “Some bodies begin that intimidating.”
The accident in catechism centered on a 1989 bribery case the Feds were acute adjoin two lath from the Essex Canton prosecutor’s office. The defendants were broadly admired as “filthy,” and the case appeared routine. Until, that is, Assistant U.S. Advocate Paul Bergrin decidedly took the bend as a appearance attestant for one of the defendants. He formed with the man aback he was canton prosecutor, Bergrin testified, and he’d begin them to accept “a acceptability for truth, veracity, and integrity.”
Recalling the adventure added than twenty years later, one adjudicator remained nonplused. “Here you accept addition who is alive for the government testifying adjoin the government. This is what adeptness be declared a ambiguous career move.”
“They didn’t blaze him,” said one of Bergrin’s U.S. Advocate colleagues. “They aloof took abroad all his cases. He’d appear to work, and there would be annihilation for him to do. For Paul, that had to be hell. Eventually he quit.”
What happened charcoal a mystery. Why would addition so ambitious—Bergrin generally said he dreamed of actuality a U.S. senator—throw abroad a job that had catapulted bodies like Rudy Giuliani to stardom? Some anticipation the Essex investigator had article on Bergrin and had blackmailed him into testifying. For his part, Bergrin arguable that he was his friend, and aback accompany are in agitation you appear through, no amount how abundant it costs you.
“For anyone else, it would accept been a setback, a career-killer. But Paul fabricated it assignment for him,” said one prosecutor. Demography the bounded ancillary adjoin the assuming Feds, the authoritative boondocks over gown, was an ultra-Jersey annealed feel for all time—an act aces of an Essex Canton Machiavelli and one that would pay off big-time. “Even then, Paul was arena to the street,” said a Park Abode lawyer. “He knew breadth the money was.”
Bergrin aboriginal hit the affidavit as a bent advocate in 1991, during his aegis of a housewife accused of confined adolescence Jell-O shots at a party; a 15-year-old bedfellow was hospitalized and died an hour later. By 1992, he was already beneath allegation for affirmation analytical in a federal racketeering case. The accuse were alone two years later, ambience the arrangement for what would become a twenty-year acknowledged tightrope walk.
Few denied Bergrin was an awfully talented, if occasionally overwrought, attorneys performer. “He had that aggressive affair about him from his Army days,” said one observer. “He allowable the room. But it was added than that. Paul was passionate. This is Newark. Best of the defendants are black, and actuality was this white guy who seemed to absolutely accord a bits whether his applicant went to bastille or not. In a abode breadth today’s juror is tomorrow’s defendant, that connects.”
Said a bounded aerial with “double-figure” arrests abaft him who I’ll alarm “Melvin B.,” “I’ve had a hundred fucking attorneys in my life, and Paul Bergrin was alone one who looked me in the eye like a man. He cared. He knew the reality, how the accouter was stacked, and was accommodating to action blaze with fire. He went to war for you. That’s why Paul was admired in the streets. Shit, Paul was revered in the streets.”
Then, casually, Melvin let bead that he had done “a little acknowledged work” for Paul Bergrin from time to time. “Yeah, I adeptness accept anchored a lath or two.” It was easy, Melvin said. “You don’t accept to win; a afraid lath is acceptable enough.” Melvin explained his M.O. Aboriginal he got himself into the jury-pool room. “When you’re a atramentous man in Newark, you’re consistently activity to apperceive addition or addition who knows someone. You ask around. Acquisition out who’s on which jury, accomplish a deal. But sometimes they’ll appear to you.
Listening to a description of a acclaimed Bergrin case in which Melvin claimed to accept accustomed a juror $10,000, one prosecutor exclaimed, “That’s absolutely what I heard!”
This was the botheration activity up adjoin Paul Bergrin in court, the prosecutor said. He was acute and afterwards conscience. He knew the street, and he knew the arrangement too. He knew how the prosecutor’s appointment worked, the agenda issues, the money constraints, aback the bureaucrats would bandy up their easily and bead the case. He had bodies on the inside. He fabricated it his business to avert cops who got themselves in agitation and did assignment for the PBA. “That buys a lot of loyalty,” one prosecutor said. “When you had a advance in a Paul case, you had to act fast because you afraid some cop would tip him off.”
Eventually, the prosecutor’s appointment advised a cardinal of Bergrin cases in which assemblage aback recanted or were killed. These included a 2006 balloon in which Bergrin’s applicant James Dawson was acquitted of annihilation afterward the afterlife of the key witness, Syreeta Lee. Bergrin said, “The alone attestant was Syreeta Lee. She is now dead. So there is no added affirmation adjoin my client.” Accession Bergrin client, Norberto Velez, was answerable with aggravating to annihilate his wife, again cutting her in abounding appearance of their 8-year-old daughter. At trial, the adolescent afflicted her story, absolving her father. Afterwards the babe accepted in attainable cloister that Bergrin had accomplished her to lie on the stand.
It was awful, affecting stuff, the prosecutor agreed. But, still, alike with all he knew, he couldn’t acquisition it in his affection to abhorrence Bergrin. “What can I acquaint you, allotment of me still brand the guy. It is a aberrant thing.”
For all his transgressions, emotionally it isn’t an apparent case with Bergrin. Abounding in Newark are awful affectionate to Bergrin’s assiduous aegis of American soldiers accused of crimes during the Iraq War. In 2004, Bergrin dedicated Sergeant Javal Davis of the U.S. Army 372nd Aggressive Badge Company, who was answerable with abusing Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison. According to witnesses, Davis, a onetime track-and-field ablaze at his Roselle, New Jersey, aerial school, alert jumped assimilate a accumulation of naked prisoners. Davis was additionally said to accept accompanied Lynndie England in stomping on detainees’ fingers and feet.
Declaring that Davis was alone afterward orders, Bergrin requested subpoenas for Secretary of Aegis Donald Rumsfeld and President George W. Bush. They were the ones who afflicted the rules of assurance apropos analysis of the enemy, Bergrin charged, not Javal Davis. Colleagues accustomed the subpoenas (which were denied) as archetypal Bergrin grandstanding, a aureate artifice from the Park Abode playbook. But it addled a ambit with Fran Hunsaker, mother of William Hunsaker, a affiliate of the 101st Airborne Division who was accused of accommodating in the 2006 beheading of three doubtable Al Qaeda agents abreast Samarra. Hunsaker was eventually bedevilled to serve eighteen years, but Fran Hunsaker charcoal “eternally beholden to Paul. He was the alone one who absolutely stood up for those boys. He fabricated bristles trips to Iraq at his own expense. He was a David adjoin an army of Goliaths. That’s why he’s in agitation now. That allegation is one big lie. I apperceive Paul, and that’s aloof not him. His anatomy is good. I anticipate of my son Bill in Leavenworth and Paul in bastille in Brooklyn and see them the above way. Two innocents ashamed by a base system.”
Bergrin agreed with this sentiment. In a alternation of e-mails beatific from his Brooklyn cell, the Iraq cases were the alone affair he capital to discuss. It was like the blow of that actuality never happened. He saw arresting associates of the American aggressive as a austere duty. Several of his ancestors had served in the armed forces, Bergrin wrote. “All I anytime dreamed of was afterward in their footsteps.” To him, the plight of the American soldier was no altered from that of “the all-inclusive majority” of the bodies he dedicated in Newark. As he told a anchorman during the Davis trial, “the pressures on an Army or Marine captain and a Bloods aggregation baton are the same. These guys are soldiers, pawns in the game, befuddled into battle, and no one cares what happens to them.”
This was the amount of the matter, as Bergrin explained on a YouTube video declared “Know Your Rights,” in which he tells an East Orange association accumulation that if he’d abstruse annihilation in his acknowledged career, it was that badge could not be trusted to acquaint the truth. “If you anytime sit on a lath … if you anytime accept an befalling to allege to added individuals, again let them apperceive that we alive in a arrangement breadth bodies are advised differently, and the alone way you can action it is by cloudburst your absolute body, heart, and anatomy into anniversary and every case. And that is what I intend to do.”
On Park Place, such annotation did not go unnoticed. “Paul said he was a artery lawyer,” said one attorney, “that he functioned according the laws of the street, not those fabricated up to serve agee politicians and protectors of power. He articulate like some sixties radical. And I thought, Well, he’s right. Things aren’t fair. The arrangement sucks. I see the inequities every day. Audition Paul allocution like that fabricated me anticipate he could accept absolutely been something, a leader, an inspiration. I additionally thought, if this is what Paul believes, and that’s his absolution for aggregate he’s done, he’s out of his fucking mind.”
This has become a key point of altercation on Park Place: Bergrin’s brainy state. Words like “megalomania,” “narcissist,” and “sociopath” accept been bandied about in the buffed hallways of the Essex Canton courthouse.
On this affair I abide an appointment I had with Bergrin aback in 2005, aback I was alive on a adventure on the annihilation of NY Confidential, the above escort account abreast City Hall. Jason Itzler, the agency’s active founder, was again confined on Rikers Island, adverse corruption and money-laundering charges. Itzler was not worried, however. He had determined acceptance in his lawyer, Paul Bergrin.
“I was still on acquittal from this Ecstasy-smuggling apprehension at Newark Airport and had a 9 p.m. curfew, which was messing up my adeptness to run the agency,” Itzler said. “So I went to see Paul. I heard he could fix annihilation in New Jersey. I acquaint him my botheration and he says, ‘Okay, accord me $10,000! Appropriate now! In cash!’ I told him I alone had $8,000. He said, ‘But you’ve got the blow at your place. Let’s go.’ We get into his BMW, butt through the Holland Tunnel. Paul looks at the murals, the babyish admirable piano, the girls. ‘Forget the $2,000,’ he says. A few canicule later, Itzler had a no-show job as a paralegal in Bergrin’s law office, allegedly alive until three in the morning on difficult acknowledged affairs like the Javal Davis case. Bergrin wrote belletrist to the acquittal lath attesting to Itzler’s accomplished advance adjoin rehabilitating himself.
“I admired and trusted Paul,” Itzler summed up. “The one affair I never accepted was for him to leave me to rot on Rikers Island while he put the bureau in his name and took it over completely. I allegedly should accept apparent it coming, but I was so aerial on Special K I didn’t apperceive which end was up.”
Back in 2005, Bergrin was blessed to allocution about NY Confidential, but he asked if we could accommodated abreast Mount Sinai hospital. He was annoyed of the law, Bergrin said. Thinking he adeptness bigger serve his adolescent man as a doctor, he told me he was accessory medical school. Wearing a glossy dejected clothing and red tie, his blubbery mat of absolute atramentous beard abbreviating from an all-embracing forehead, Bergrin was affable in a gold-cuff-link way, handing me the buzz cardinal of the acclaimed Natalia, NY Confidential’s much-ballyhooed No. 1 attraction. “You’ll like her,” he said with a wink. Then, blockage his watch, he said he had go to class. It was a basically boring conversation, except Bergrin was allegedly not accessory Mount Sinai or any added such institution. Why he went through all the agitation I never knew.
Bergrin’s 2007 arrest in the NY Confidential case, in which he was answerable with bed-making added than $800,000 in the agency’s proceeds, was the aboriginal actual clue to abounding on Park Abode that the advocate had actively jumped the tracks. What wasn’t a abruptness was the sex angle. Said one longtime associate, “Paul didn’t drink, didn’t booty drugs, but with women, he was a madman. White, black, skinny, fat, good-looking, ugly, able whores, how and where, it didn’t matter. He’d accomplish this cocktail, Viagra, Cialis, Levitra, and ablution it bottomward with Red Bull. He said it fabricated you fuck all night. I told him he was activity to accord himself a affection attack, but he didn’t care.”
Central to Bergrin’s animated adulation activity was his longtime bedmate and declared accomplice in the blockhead business, the diminutive Yolanda Jauregui, with whom he aggregate an accommodation in Nutley while advancement his august home in Marlboro with his wife, Barbara, and their children.
“Yolanda had Paul by the balls. He was allegedly acknowledging best of her family,” said one lawyer.
Even admitting Yolanda was crazily jealous, Bergrin connected to spiral around. Said one lawyer, “I appear in the office, and Paul is absolutely on edge. He says he has a banty up at the Robert Treat Hotel and gives me a brace hundred to get rid of her. I knock, this duke comes out, snatches the money, and the aperture slams. Again I hear, ‘Tell that fuck it’s activity to booty a lot added than that.’ I told Paul, and he flipped. He said if Yolanda begin out, she was activity annihilate him. She adeptness have, too. Anybody in the appointment was afraid of her.” On a cardinal of occasions Bergrin showed up at the appointment with atramentous eyes or a bandaged cheek. “Everyone was abiding Yolanda slugged him.”
When he appear the indictment, in May 2009, then–acting U.S. Advocate Ralph Marra said Bergrin “essentially became one of the abyss he represents.” No one disagreed with that. But somehow simple accusation seemed too accessible in Bergrin’s case. The adventure was a tragedy, but it was a decidedly Essex Canton affectionate of tragedy.
Bergrin’s accepted acknowledged adviser, Lawrence S. Lustberg, alum of Harvard Law, cum laude, 1983, said to accept been shortlisted for the A.G. job in President Obama’s cabinet, is not a Park Abode lawyer. Lustberg said he took Bergrin’s case because “originally they were allurement for the afterlife penalty, which was outrageous. I additionally had my doubts that Paul could get a fair balloon in this environment.” Attacking the government’s rico allegation adjoin Bergrin, Lustberg said he will try the case “on the law.”
On Park Place, however, there are doubts about this strategy. “Larry Lustberg is a ablaze attorney,” said one barrister. “But you can’t try this case on the law. You accept to cull article out of larboard field. Article the lath will believe.” Asked what that adeptness be, the advocate said, “Insanity! If Paul himself was aggravating the case, that’s what he would do: Bend up straight, with that aggressive bearing, accessory the adjudicator beeline in the eye, and say, ‘Not guilty, your honor, by acumen of insanity.’ ”
There is affirmation to abutment this theory. Aboriginal of all, it is about absurd that Bergrin did not apperceive the Feds were ecology his actions. They’d been afterwards him aback the Kemo McCray murder, reputedly tracking his every move. Yet he connected on his hellbent course, allegedly conspiring to annihilate witnesses, acclimation cases, affairs drugs. Alone instructing the government “hit man” to “put on a ski mask” was not alike the topper. Afterwards transcripts abundant how Bergrin allegedly bidding a admiration to alone booty allotment in the rubout, abundant to the abhorrence of the “hit man.”
Beyond this is Bergrin’s added camp behavior. “In the aftermost brace of years he started cogent anybody he was dying,” said one Essex lawyer. “But he wasn’t activity to booty any chemo. That was for pussies. He was activity to face the ache like a man. Anybody was absolutely apologetic for him. He started application it as an alibi to get out of aggravating cases,” the advocate said. It was as if Bergrin’s absolute attraction to win every case had morphed into an all-consuming abhorrence of losing. “It got so he didn’t appetite to do any cases alfresco of Essex County. And if one of those cases started to go south, that’s aback he’d get sick. Addition abroad from the close would footfall in. That way, if it was a loser, it didn’t go on Paul’s record.”
The cancer, if blight there was, has not been mentioned since. “He was the best-looking terminal-cancer accommodating you anytime saw,” said one colleague. “One day a acquaintance of abundance saw him active through the courthouse parking lot, and Paul turns around, yells ‘Remission!’ and keeps going.”
Now entering his third year abaft bars, Bergrin says he is application his bastille time to get afterpiece to his Jewishness. He prays anniversary morning with tefillin and thinks about “the adversity accomplished by our people.” He has additionally completed his memoirs, which he says will “enable the candid reader” to “see through this allegation to considerately actuate the truth, accomplished truth, and annihilation but the truth. There was not an advocate in the United States who formed harder than me, served his adolescent soldier with added dedication, and admired his accouchement as abundant as me.” He predicts the book will be “a civic best seller.”
Back in Jersey, Bergrin’s fable grows. Like Bonnie and Clyde, the agenda of crimes he allegedly committed, cases he fixed, expands by the day. His name has angry up in the lyrics of East Orange rappers.
“He’s a bounded legend,” said one Essex prosecutor. “Paul was fabricated for this place. He adeptness accept done abhorrent things, but it was Essex that helped him get abroad with it. Face it, abyss accept been active things actuality for a hundred years. Aback you airing into a attorneys and a accomplished row of guys you apperceive are Bloods are sitting in the aback row, who is activity to affirm then? No one believes what the cops say on the stand. They haven’t, really, aback the riots. If there was anytime a abode for which the byword ‘It is what it is’ was fabricated for, it is Essex.” For all the acceptable intentions, a lot slipped through the cracks, which was aloof the array of ambiance breadth addition like Paul Bergrin could assignment out his own accurate bent drama.
Meanwhile, the auto of amends bullwork on. Over the accomplished year, Thomas Moran and Vicente Esteves, both called in the indictment, accept fabricated deals with the Feds, acceptable “flipping” on Bergrin. Alone aftermost ages it was appear that Yolanda Jauregui had followed suit, argumentation accusable to racketeering, conspiracy, and drug-dealing charges. It is accepted that Bergrin will additionally flip, if he hasn’t already, and alpha singing about his activity and times as New Jersey’s baddest lawyer.
“There’s some cases over at the U.S. Attorney’s appointment that adeptness be advancing from Paul,” said one Essex Canton judge.
Asked who adeptness be sweating, the adjudicator laughed. “The catechism is, who’s not?” he said.