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NJ lawyer's murder case ends in mistrialNJ lawyer's murder case ends in mistrial after jury unable to reach consensus
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) ' A mistrial was declared Wednesday in the federal case against an attorney accused of murdering an informant when jurors said they couldn't reach a verdict after six days of deliberations.
The judge declared the mistrial in Paul Bergrin's case, saying the jury was hung.
Bergrin faced one count each of murder and conspiracy for allegedly ordering the killing of an informant in 2004 to prevent him from testifying against one of Bergrin's clients. The government claimed Bergrin was involved in the drug trade himself.
Bergrin represented himself and accused the government of getting witnesses to change their stories in exchange for lighter sentences.
Bergrin once represented rappers and other celebrities such as Queen Latifah. He faces racketeering and drug charges that will be the focus of a separate trial.
In a note to U.S. District Judge William J. Martini on Wednesday morning, the jury foreperson said that after numerous votes, "At this point we see no avenue to reaching a unanimous decision."
The verdict likely won't spell an end to Bergrin's legal troubles. He faces a litany of charges including drug trafficking, racketeering and prostitution in an indictment unsealed in May 2009, when Bergrin and several alleged associates were arrested. He will remain in federal detention in Brooklyn awaiting a second trial scheduled for Jan. 4.
The 2009 indictment contained the murder charges stemming from the 2004 killing of Deshawn "Kemo" McCray, a low-level drug dealer who had been providing evidence to the FBI about one of Bergrin's clients, but Martini severed those charges for this trial.
The government's case was built on testimony from several convicted drug dealers ' some of whom Bergrin once represented ' who testified Bergrin was involved in illegal drug trafficking through Hakeem Curry, the kingpin of one of Newark's most notorious gangs.
That gave Bergrin a personal motive to want McCray dead, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Gay contended.
Bergrin countered that all of the witnesses ' particularly confessed shooter Anthony Young ' changed their stories multiple times in an attempt to fit the prosecution's theory of the case and earn lighter sentences in exchange. Young testified Bergrin uttered the phrase, "No Kemo, no case" at a meeting a few months before McCray's death; Bergrin denied making the statement or attending the alleged meeting.
In a nearly five-hour summation, he begged jurors: "There is no tomorrow for me. You are my last line of defense."
Bergrin began his career as a prosecutor, first at the Essex County prosecutor's office and later at the U.S. attorney's office ' the office that tried him in this case. He gained a reputation as a no-holds-barred advocate for defendants others attorneys might shy away from. But privately, many lawyers suspected he may have become too close to the criminal element he represented.
Two weeks before his 2009 arrest in New Jersey, Bergrin pleaded guilty in New York to misdemeanor conspiracy to promote prostitution in exchange for probation in a case involving a high-priced Manhattan escort agency run by one of his clients. He was sentenced to three years' probation.
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