N.J. Prosecutor Turned Criminal Is Sentenced to Six Life Prison Terms
On Monday, attorneys argued for and against sentencing enhancements and departures, but three of the convictions carried mandatory life imprisonment terms: violent crime in aid of racketeering activity, witness murder and conspiracy to commit witness murder.
Cavanaugh handed down three more life terms — the maximum sentence on Bergrin's convictions of racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering and conspiracy to distribute cocaine.
Bergrin, dressed in beige inmate garb, said he was "ashamed," "embarrassed" and "humiliated," but continued to maintain his innocence as he pleaded for any break the judge was empowered to give.
Bergrin said he was "probably one of the busiest attorneys in the state of New Jersey," adding, "I've had thousands upon thousands of clients. I've had hundreds of trials," and "never one allegation" of wrongdoing.
Bergrin went off on a tangent, accusing former U.S. Attorneys Samuel Alito and Michael Chertoff — along with current U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, then an assistant — with threatening him with kidnapping and murder for testifying on behalf of two criminally charged police officers in 1991, while Bergrin was still an assistant U.S. attorney.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Gay, deputy chief of the Criminal Division, called Bergrin a "lawyer cloaked in legitimacy" who "woke up every morning on a mission to beat the system."
Gay called Bergrin's allegations about Fishman, Alito and Chertoff "absolutely false" and "scurrilous."
Fishman, outside the courtroom, said the sentence "reflects the extreme seriousness of his crime and the extent to which he betrayed the justice system."
Bergrin's court-appointed assisting counsel, Lawrence Lustberg of Gibbons in Newark, who handled briefs and motion arguments, promised an immediate appeal. Cavanaugh denied motions for acquittal, a new trial and other relief in July.
Lustberg told reporters that Bergrin "was not … given the opportunity to fully present his case" because Cavanaugh refused a presentence evidentiary hearing at which Bergrin intended to present evidence he purposely withheld at trial.