Targeting Lawyers: America v. Paul Bergrin

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Targeting Lawyers: America v. Paul Bergrin – by Stephen Lendman

Post-9/11, thousands of political prisoners languish unjustly behind bars or await trial.

They include lawyers for challenging injustice, especially for defending the “wrong” clients after America declared war on humanity.

Longtime human rights lawyer Lynne Stewart got 10 years for doing it. In a recent interview she said:

“I believe I am one of an historical progression that maintains the struggle to change (America’s) perverted landscape….It seems that being a political prisoner must be used as a means of focusing people’s attention on the continuing atrocities around them….I might think I hadn’t been doing my utmost if they didn’t believe I was dangerous enough to be locked up!”

Explaining how outrageously prisoners are treated, she added:

“Human rights do not exist in prison….I see day-to-day brainwashing that teaches all prisoners that they are less than nothing and not worthy of even the least human or humane considerations.”

It shows up in “adequate medical care, the appalling diet….no access to the Web….an absence of legal advice,” and so much else “to keep us dumbed-down, docile and estranged.”

“The outside world is oblivious….brainwashed into believing (everyone locked up is) less than human.”

Inhumanity is official policy in America’s gulag. It’s by far the world’s largest, and for many in it as brutal as some of the worst. A growing part includes filling prison beds for profit, many in them victimized by injustice.

Lynne’s there for defending a client Bush officials wanted locked up for life – no matter his innocence.

Paul Bergrin now awaits his turn, behind bars ahead of his trial. A previous article discussed his case, accessed through the following link:

It said the Sixth Amendment assures defendants in “all criminal prosecutions” the right to speedy, public, fair trials with “the Assistance of (competent) Counsel for his (or her) defense” provided free if unable to pay for it.

The Fourteenth Amendment holds government subservient to the law and guarantees due process respect for everyone’s legal right to judicial fairness on matters relating to life, liberty, or property.

In America and elsewhere, defending unpopular clients is a long, honored tradition. So is upholding the law and challenging unfettered power defiling it. Yet doing it risks lawyers being criminalized for doing their job too vigorously or making enemies in high places.

Before being targeted, Bergrin was a formidable advocate. The New Times Times called him a “top prosecutor” before becoming one of New Jersey’s “most prominent defense lawyers representing clients as varied as Abu Ghraib defendants, the rap stars Lil’ Kim and Queen Larifah, and members of Newark’s notorious street gangs.”

They and others deserve the same legal rights as everyone, nothing less. So does Bergrin as an unjustly accused defendant, targeted for doing his job.

He defended US soldiers accused of killing four Iraqis near Samarra during Operation Iron Triangle in May 2006. The case made international headlines when evidence showed Col. Michael Steele gave orders to “kill all military age males.”

Stjepan Mestrovic’s important book explained what happened, titled “The ‘Good Soldier’ on Trial: A Sociological Study of Misconduct by the US Military Pertaining to Operation Iron Triangle, Iraq.”

It was no ordinary murder case. It involved government conspiracy, cover-up and intrigue against scapegoated soldiers to absolve higher-ups throughout the chain of command to the top.

As a result, four soldiers were convicted of conspiracy, murder, aggravated assault, or obstruction of justice for following orders. If disobeyed they’d have been court-martialed, dishonorably discharged, fined and imprisoned.

Guilt or innocence didn’t matter. They never had a chance, and for using his formidable skills for them, neither perhaps does Paul.

Obama officials want him crucified and locked away for life, turning justice into a four-letter word like for so many others targeted for political advantage.

Prosecutorial Charges

On May 20, 2009, a Department of Justice (DOJ) press released headlined “Newark Lawyer Arrested, Charged with Racketeering Conspiracy, Including Murder of a Federal Witness (along with) Three Others Also Arrested and Charged.”

The 14-count indictment (now 33) accused him of “using various legal entities, including (his law office) to conduct illegal activities, including murder, to protect criminal clients, perpetuate their activities and shield them from prosecution.”

Specifically cited was his alleged role in the “murder of a confidential witness in an Essex County (New Jersey) federal drug case, and his efforts to hire a hitman from Chicago to kill at least one witness in a Monmouth County drug case.”

Bergrin was charged with “racketeering and racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy, murder of a federal witness, and conspiracy to murder a federal witness, and, separately, witnesses in a state case, as well as Travel Act violations and conspiracy to commit Travel Act violations.”

If convicted of murder, racketeering and conspiracy, potentially he faces life in prison.

Bergrin v. Attack Journalism

On June 5, New York Magazine writer Mark Jacobson headlined, “The Baddest Lawyer in the History of Jersey,” practically convicting him without trial by his title.

Naming some of Essex County’s most notorious scoundrels, including Mafia boss Lucky Luciano, he called Bergrin a “strong candidate for addition to this list…. facing charges that are a good bet to keep him behind bars for the rest of his life.”

In other words, he swallowed government accusations hook, line and sinker pre-trial, what legitimate journalism never should do. He accepted inflammatory charges as truth, no matter how implausible and bogus.

American justice accuses innocent victims spuriously with crimes they didn’t commit, including terrorism, conspiracy to commit it, and murder.

In Bergrin’s case, Jacobson admitted that federal authorities hated him, without saying why. It was because of his skill and commitment to expose their crimes, the same ones ongoing daily in war theaters.

Anyone doing that for a living or pro bono will be targeted the same way. Authorities don’t like effective thorns in their side, so stop at nothing to remove them. Innocence doesn’t matter, only continuity of unchallenged crimes of war and against humanity with impunity.

Bergrin knew it and wanted top chain of command officials exposed and prosecuted. As a result, he’s behind bars facing possible life in prison.

Based on government charges and uncorroborated hearsay, Jacobson said he’d “gone rogue,” crossed “that border between what was allowed and what was not…”

Yet he admitted that “(h)e knew the reality, how the deck was stacked, and was willing to fight fire with fire” for justice. “He went to war for you,” said a former client. “That’s why Paul was loved in the streets.” They’re aren’t enough like him.

The deck is so stacked against him that former counsel Lawrence Lustberg believes it’s impossible he can get a fair trial in this environment. Attack journalism, of course, doesn’t help.

ABA (American Bar Association) Journal contributor, Martha Neil, discussed Bergrin’s case in previous articles.

On June 7, she headlined “Expanded New RICO Indictment Accuses Alleged Rogue Attorney of More Law-Firm-Related Charges,” saying:

A “new racketeering indictment (read more like) the latest John Grisham legal thriller” from murder one to piling on lots more. In other words, the more charges, the more likely some will stick, whether or not credible.

On August 30, she headlined, “High-Profile Defense Attorney Accused of Practicing Law in RICO Enterprise May Represent Himself,” saying:

Jailed since 2009 “on charges that he ran his law practice as part of a criminal racketeering enterprise,” he may do what “one expert” calls a good idea, given his skill representing others.

“Three of the government’s main cooperating witnesses (include) his mistress and alleged top criminal associate, his former law partner, and a drug kingpin ex-client.”

All copped a plea for lighter treatment in return for testifying against Bergrin, the main target prosecutors locked up for life, even by framing him on bogus charges.

On September 12, Neil headlined, “Attorney Paul Bergrin’s Biggest Trial is About to Begin: His Own Racketeering Case,” saying:

Federal Judge William Martini agreed to let him proceed pro se, but he’ll “be restricted in his courtroom movements.”

He won’t be allowed to approach jurors, hand documents to witnesses, or participate in private out of earshot sidebar conferences at the bench where legal issues are considered.

At the same time, federal marshals will monitor him closely, giving jurors the appearance of a guilty man going through the motions.

Overcoming a stacked deck will be Bergrin’s greatest challenge. Some, however, say if anyone can do it he can, given his reputation as a formidable adversary other lawyers feared, knowing how tough he is to beat.

However, judicial restrictions will impede his every move, making jurors believe he lacks credibility and is guilty. On October 11, his trial is scheduled to begin, fair or foul.

A Final Comment

The entire case is based on fabrication and intimidation to suppress hard truths and convict lawyers trying to expose them. Bergrin was framed to discredit and silence him. In November 2009, he said:

“This virtual nightmare has destroyed everything I worked my heart and soul out for, including my family. What hurts me the most is I am not guilty and totally innocent.”

I was about to change the course of history that I had affirmative proof that President Bush, VP Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Assist. Secy. of (Defense) Wolfowitz, Carbone and White House Counsel, (Alberto) Gonzales (later US Attorney General) had lied, deliberately and intentionally when they denied knowledge of the torture techniques at Abu Ghraib.”

He never got a chance to prove it. Instead, he’s been convicted in the court of public opinion. His trial won’t be about alleged crimes. It’s for threatening the wrong people up the chain of command to the top.

Imagine the possibilities if he’d done it, putting Bush/Cheney & Co. in the dock, instead of himself because he tried.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Stephen Lendman
Stephen Lendman
Stephen Lendman was born in 1934 in Boston, MA. In 1956, he received a BA from Harvard University. Two years of US Army service followed, then an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1960. After working seven years as a marketing research analyst, he joined the Lendman Group family business in 1967. He remained there until retiring at year end 1999. Writing on major world and national issues began in summer 2005. In early 2007, radio hosting followed. Lendman now hosts the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network three times weekly. Distinguished guests are featured. Listen live or archived. Major world and national issues are discussed. Lendman is a 2008 Project Censored winner and 2011 Mexican Journalists Club international journalism award recipient.