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Feds add more charges in murder case of former prosecutor turned pimp lawyer

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

The descent of former pimp lawyer Paul Bergrin continued today when a federal grand jury piled more charges atop his murder and witness intimidation counts.


Paul Bergrin

Bergrin once put criminals away, first with the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office and, later, with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He then went private, defending gang members and such rap stars as Li’l Kim and Queen Latifah.

“The breadth, variety and seriousness of the charges allegedly committed by Bergrin and his associates are tragic,” said U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman. “Equally tragic is that the head of this alleged criminal enterprise was once a prosecutor sworn to uphold and enforce the law.”

Earlier this year, Bergrin admitted running a $1,000-an-hour escort service with the man who later hired Eliot Spitzer’s favorite hooker — a Belmar woman best known as Ashley Dupree.

But that was nothing compared to the bombshell the government dropped on Bergrin, charging that he systematically derailed criminal cases against his clients — once by arranging the murder of a key witness and another time by hiring a hit man to whack another.

A superseding indictment returned today accuses Bergrin of also bribing a witness in an armed robbery case, drug trafficking and assisting a parolee in running a
New York prostitution ring.

The charges specifically detail Bergrin’s alleged role in the murder of a confidential witness in an Essex County federal drug case, as well as efforts to hire a hitman from Chicago to kill at least one witness in a state drug case being prosecuted in Monmouth County.

Turned out the “hitman” was a cooperating witness, federal authorities said.

Bergrin, 53, of Nutley, was a former Essex County Assistant Prosecutor and Assistant U.S. Attorney between 1985 and 1990.

Among the new allegations in the superseding indictment, the government says Bergrin was involved in a drug conspiracy involving multi-kilograms of cocaine.

Federal prosecutors say Bergrin also helped a New Jersey parolee in running a prostitution ring by telling the state parole board the person was working at his firm. The former  lawyer then re-incorporated the company (NY Confidential Escorts, Inc.) in New York, they said.

A federal judge has ordered that Bergrin be held without bail because of the danger prosecutors said he’d pose against every witness prepared to testify against him.

The original indictment specifically details Bergrin’s role in the murder of a confidential witness in an Essex County federal drug case, and his alleged efforts to hire a hitman from Chicago to kill at least one witness in a Monmouth County drug case being prosecuted by the county. As it turns out, the “hitman” turned state’s evidence for the feds.

The informant who was killed — Kemo Deshawn McCray — bought drugs from William Baskerville in a buy-and-bust operation that led to Baskerville’s arrest on distribution charges, court papers filed by a DEA agent say.

Bergrin, after thumbing through legal documents, met with Baskerville in jail and identified McCray as the informant, the agent said.

Bergrin then met with his client’s cousins, allegedly telling them that “if they didn’t kill ‘Kemo,’ William Baskerville would spend the rest of his life in jail,” he wrote.

“After Bergrin discussed how Baskerville’s drug associates were going to pay Bergrin’s legal fee for his representation of William Baskerville, Bergrin said that if there was no “Kemo” to testify against William Baskerville, there would be no case against William Baskerville,” the document says. “Bergrin said that if “Kemo” was dead, that William Baskerville would definitely get out of jail.

“When Bergrin left the meeting, he said ‘remember what I said, no Kemo, no case’.”

Kemo was standing on a Newark streetcorner in March 2004 when a killer who authorities say was hired by Baskerville’s cousins walked up and shot him three times in the back of the head.

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