Former Federal Prosecutor and Lawyer To Stars Charged With Murder

(AP Photo/Mike Derer)
File photo of attorney Paul Bergrin in Superior Court in Newark, NJ on May 8, 2009.

NEWARK, N.J. (CBS/AP) A defense attorney and former federal prosecutor whose clients have included rap stars and a soldier at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq was charged Wednesday with arranging the killing of one witness and trying to hire a hit man to kill another.

Paul Bergrin is accused of murder and conspiracy to commit murder in a 14-count federal indictment. Four others also are named in the indictment, including Bergrin's fellow attorney, Thomas Moran.

The others face charges including racketeering, wire fraud and conspiracy in what prosecutors characterized as a criminal enterprise that also engaged in witness tampering, money laundering and drug trafficking.

"He employed every illegal tool available to keep murderers and drug dealers on our streets," acting U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra said of Bergrin. "His mantra was, 'No witness, no case."'

Bergrin, who lives in Nutley, about 12 miles west of New York City, is a former Essex County Assistant Prosecutor who also worked as an assistant U.S. Attorney in Newark between 1985 and 1990.

This is not Bergrin's first tangle with the wrong side of the law. In May, he pled guilty to conspiracy to promote prostitution for his involvement with an exclusive Manhattan call girl service that allegedly launched the careers of Ashley Dupre

(AP Photo/ABC, Heidi Gutman)

Courtesy of ABC

and "Natalia," a woman who graced the cover of New York Magazine as the city's top escort.

Bergrin, 53, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Madeline Cox Arleo in handcuffs with the other defendants. He will be jailed pending a bail hearing next week.

"He is claiming his innocence," Bergrin's attorney, Gerald Shargel, said. "These are very serious charges and we are going to mount a serious defense."

Among Bergrin's clients are Queen Latifah and rap mogul Lil' Kim. He also represented Sgt. Javal S. Davis, a New Jersey soldier who served about four months in a military prison in 2005 for mistreating Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison.

Prosecutors say Bergrin gave the name of a federal informant to associates of a suspect Bergrin was defending in a drug case. The informant, known by the nickname "Kemo," was shot three times on a Newark street in 2004 by one of the associates, according to the indictment.

The other plot involved a 2008 drug case in which Bergrin is alleged to have had numerous conversations with a confidential informant about killing a man who was scheduled to testify against his client.

"I got it all figured out," Bergrin allegedly said on a call taped by the informant. "Put on a ski mask and make it look like a robbery and take all the money out of the house."