Monday, February 11, 2013

In the Land of Make Believe

Prosecutors would like you to believe that Paul Bergrin is worse than anyone he ever defended, from gang members to drug traffickers to informants that claim to be hitmen to Jason Itzler and his group of tax evaders. The truth is that he had the simple belief that everyone deserves a fair trial. Paul Bergrin was one of the best attorneys in the US, and prosecutors anywhere, but especially Newark, are happy he is no longer in criminal defense.

Finding an attorney to fight for you if you are a defendant is no easy task. We live in an era of plea deal resolutions. The system has long been broken and broke and there is no room for trials. Prosecutors expect to try less than 5% of cases that come across their desks. Attorneys are taught to work within the system of compromise - i.e. plea deals - and if they do not, they quickly figure out how truly time-consuming trial preparation is.

Paul Bergrin is not much different in respect to his own time and his own situation. He was offered a deal in relation to the NY Confidential fiasco that allowed him to plea to what is classified as a misdemeanor in the State of New York. He pled to one count of "conspiracy to promote prostitution," a misdemeanor, in that case.

A misdemeanor would not stop him from returning to law following acquittal in this case, though I must imagine that Paul Bergrin has had his fill of criminal defense by now. Returning to law would be almost impossible as he could never actually trust or believe in a client again. A misdemeanor won't stop anyone from doing anything and is almost without consequence.

With a massive and voluminous indictment in front of him, Paul made the choice to get rid of that ridiculous case. Pleading to a misdemeanor does not translate to being guilty of the specifics involved, but any attorney would know that. Perhaps this post is for non-attorneys that manage to find fault with Paul Bergrin because of the misdemeanor plea. Last year I argued with one such person that claimed repeatedly that Paul was a convicted felon. I actually had to look-up the specific charge in New York criminal statutes to prove my point before he would stop calling Paul a felon. Just crazy.

Shortly after my own arrest on first degree felony charges in the State of Florida, I made an offer to plead to any misdemeanor, do up to 6 months in jail, no probation, and be done with the case. I wanted to keep my house and my life. The particular misdemeanor was immaterial to me at the time. My first attorney, that is now a judge, told me that prosecutors laughed at the offer. My response was that we would be going to trial because I'd never plead to a felony. And go to trial I did, but with a new attorney.

My willingness to plead to a random misdemeanor has no relation at all to guilt or innocence. I simply wanted to move on with my life and put a voluminous case behind me. I knew it would be a messy fight. Prosecutors would not hear of it, but I bet if you found the main prosecutor and asked him today, he probably wishes he took my offer. He is currently working as an AUSA, but outside of Florida. A big holler out to John Craft...

To summarize a long story, my prosecutor retired immediately after my trial, didn't do well in the world of criminal defense (go figure), tried to return to the State of Florida's Office of the Statewide Prosecutor, but was turned down flat by then FL AG Charlie Crist in a 2-page letter. I know - I read through his file. Someone fixed him up with an AUSA position in Texas. Good riddance and sorry for the defendants in the Eastern District of Texas.

Few people make guilty pleas to any charge because they're guilty of the specific charge. That's not how the system works. It is all a trade-off, except for the few defendants, such as Paul and myself, that take it to trial. It seems that there is little understanding of this practice in the general population and I do my part to educate, when possible.

I realize that I come on strong against informants, but the truth is that I do not blame any of them in this case or any other case. None created the system they're sucked into and everyone wants to survive and have a life. There is a new movie that will be in theaters on 22 February - Snitch - and it was inspired by real events. Consider seeing it to develop a better understanding of how the system actually works and what US prosecutors and federal agents are truly capable of. You need to know.

UPDATE on 17 August @545am:

Yes, this is the John Craft that prosecuted me:

John Craft Investigated for Racist Remarks


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