High-Profile Defense Lawyer Pleads Not Guilty to Murder Charges

A New Jersey lawyer has pleaded not guilty to charges he orchestrated the murder of a federal witness.

Paul Bergrin, 53, was arraigned Thursday along with fellow attorney Thomas Moran and three other defendants.

Bergrin is charged with murder, conspiracy and racketeering. The murder charge against him stems from the 2003 slaying of an FBI informant who was supposed to testify against one of Bergrin's clients. Prosecutors say the lawyer disclosed the informant's identity to drug dealers who gunned him down on a Newark street.

The indictment also accuses Bergrin of trying to hire a hit man from Chicago to kill at least one witness in a Monmouth County drug case. The slaying never transpired because the hit man was a government informant, authorities said.

Bergrin has for decades been a fixture in New Jersey courtrooms. He tried cases for the Essex County Prosecutor and U.S. Attorney in Newark before becoming a defense lawyer. His former clients include rappers Queen Latifah and Lil' Kim and also a host of drug dealers and gang members.

If found guilty Bergrin could face the death penalty.

Moran pleaded not guilty to being part of a racketeering conspiracy, while the three other defendants charged with conspiracy and wire fraud also pleaded not guilty.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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