There is a list of defense witnesses that are heroes in my eyes as each has the backbone and the morals to stand up for justice in Paul Bergrin's trial. It is no easy task to defy the feds, whether free or incarcerated, and in this case federal agents have been clear that they're not seeking truth. There have been thinly veiled threats leveled at all defense witnesses by prosecutors in this case.
Any witness for the defense must anticipate problems that could prevent testimony and retribution by angry prosecutors and agents for the refusal to go along with the show trial and their intention to testify truthfully. The government has already issued a warning to defense witnesses in this case that there could be Fifth Amendment issues in regards to testimony in court.
The Fifth Amendment states:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Now the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution is intended as a protection against self-incrimination and government abuse of authority in a legal procedure. However, in this situation it is being used as a tool to threaten Paul Bergrin's defense witnesses. I will give you an example of what could possibly happen with a testifying witness:
In my own RICO trial the state's main witness pled the Fifth while testifying. Her name is Theresa Ann Isaacs and actually she has at least four additional names that I discovered - a couple prior to my trial and a couple more following my acquittal. We'll just call her Terri for the sake of this example.
When my attorney, Stephen Wolverton, deposed Terri just prior to my trial, she refused to answer certain questions that related to her relationship with the main case agent and how they met, previous arrests, and tax evasion in relation to her own escort services. With some questions she offered vague, non-committal type responses and yet with other questions she simply refused to answer. A witness can do that to the defense when being deposed, but it doesn't fly in a courtroom during trial testimony.
A witness, whether for the government or for the defense, cannot plead the Fifth in trial testimony and still remain a witness. This is a main reason that I didn't understand why Oscar Cordova was not tossed from the courtroom when he stopped answering Paul Bergrin's questions on cross-examination. Oscar asked to leave for the day and the judge allowed him to do so. However, Oscar was returned to the stand the following morning, so really he only attained overnight relief. This was presumably to allow the government a short period of time to get their shit together.
So back to Terri...
Knowing which specific questions resulted in Terri offering vague responses or the refusal to respond at all, Mr. Wolverton was able to zero-in on these questions with the hope of hearing valid truthful responses in trial. Terri came through like a champion horse at the Kentucky Derby and pled the Fifth while on the stand. The judge informed her that she was a witness, not a defendant, and would not be able to testify if she refused to answer the particular question. He called a long lunch break and instructed Terri to contact her attorney and decide if she was testifying, or not.
Following our more than two-hour lunch, Terri returned to the stand. She claimed that she was unable to reach her attorney, but stated confidently that she wanted to testify. She stated this with a big smirk on her face as she glared at me. Mr. Wolverton returned to the same line of questioning and Terri, once again, pled the Fifth.
Did Terri think that my attorney would let her off the hook because she was cute? I have no clue what goes on in the mind of a druggie called as a witness for the state. I think the drugs fried her brain. Perhaps her ringing cellphone also distracted her. Yes, this escort business owner's phone was ringing away while she was on the stand and the entire courtroom (jury included) turned to look at her purse when it happened.
She looked like she was thinking and in mental pain at the same time; stuck and unsure of her next move or statement. Terri requested that the bailiff bring her a grass of water. Considering that the jurors, the defense, the prosecutors and myself were all thirsty and had no water, Terri definitely lost a few points as she slowly drank the entire glass of water while keeping us waiting.
Mr. Wolverton repeated the question, Terri pled the Fifth again, and the judge told her that she was excused as a witness in my case. I was told by a friend in the hallway that tears rolled down her cheeks and she broke into a full, heaving cry by the time she hit the hallway circus that she had brought with her. Terri went into a private room with Brant Rose, the main case agent, and remained there for almost an hour. She then followed a juror into the bathroom and cried to that juror.
The juror reported the bathroom encounter to the bailiff who then reported it to the judge. I was given the option of a mistrial, but I passed on that. I had no interest in allowing the state to get their shit together and coach Terri on how to respond to those questions. I requested that the trial continue.
Terri was not charged with jury tampering and neither was Brant Rose. I would buy a bridge in Brooklyn before I'd believe that her encounter with the juror in the bathroom was not plotted in that private room. The prosecution was a tremendous fail at that point and the main case agent absolutely needed a mistrial to regroup, which is of course why I refused it. A mistrial is not necessarily a good thing.
Back to the Paul Bergrin trial
After reading my little story, do you see how the government could prevent valid testimony important to the defense using the Fifth Amendment?
The only person that this is close to impossible to work with is the man in Jamaica that will be testifying via live video conferencing. If you have read the defense letter dated 5 March 2013 on the Documents page of this blog, then you're aware of his testimony and how important it is to Paul Bergrin. Ignatius Ben Hohn operated the auto body shop where Anthony Young claimed to have gone to melt the weapon that he allegedly used to murder Kemo Deshawn McCray.
Mr. Hohn's testimony blows a huge hole in criminal informant Anthony Young's testimony. Mr. Hohn is not an informant, he's also not a criminal, and he is not being paid for testimony in the form of substantial assistance letters from the government to shave many years off any lengthy sentence. Whose testimony is more believable? Why Mr. Hohn's of course.
Mr. Hohn's testimony is also corroborated by Rashidah Tarver's testimony in the first trial that she never drove Anthony Young to Ben Hohn's auto body shop to melt the murder weapon. At the last trial, Ms. Tarver disputed that she ever drove Young and Baskerville to Mr. Hohn's shop as Young testified. The defense investigator located Mr. Hohn and now there are two people making the same statement and neither are criminal informants seeking sentence reductions.
There are certainly more defense witnesses and some are convicted of crimes, serving sentences, and will be brought to the courtroom by U.S. Marshals from various prisons. The main difference between these defense witnesses and the government's criminal informants is that the defense witnesses are not seeking favors from prosecutors and sentence reductions.
In fact, the reality is quite the opposite. The defense witnesses that are serving time will likely be abused by the government and suffer for their truthful testimony. I intend to compile a list, once it is available to me, to note the defense witnesses testifying for no gain whatsoever. In doing so, I can only hope that much of the potential abuse by government agents can be prevented. Keeping those names public could help to prevent government initiated problems for those witnesses.
Not all convicted criminals that are testifying in this trial are doing so for profit, substantial time off of a lengthy prison sentence, or any other gain whatsoever. Some are heroes and hopefully you, and the jurors, realize the serious differences.