Federal informant Deshawn "Kemo" McCray was gunned down on a Newark street, but there was a stunning paucity of evidence linking Bergrin to the crime .
Bergrin then urged the court to question various witnesses about his supposed involvement in the crimes for which he had been convicted. "Ask them, did Paul Bergrin know you were dealing drugs?" Cavanaugh, appearing to be uncomfortable, looked away as Bergrin said, "Ask these questions and you will see a pattern in this case."
Gaining momentum, Bergrin then told the court about how he lost a sister due to HIV transmitted through intravenous drug use and that he would "never dishonor her by being involved with drugs." He then asked the court to consider how various criminals were rewarded for testifying against him and how that squared with the "need that justice be served." Specifically, Bergrin reminded the court of witness Richard Pozo who headed $150 million a year cocaine empire and how he was released after serving just four years as a reward for his testimony. Bergrin continued, "Witnesses for this case are laughing about receiving time served." AUSA Gay sat smugly as Bergrin's accusations continued to fly.
Then, with a full head of steam, Bergrin explained how while he was an AUSA in the very same Newark office now overseeing his prosecution, he was threatened by current New Jersey United States Attorney Paul Fishman, former New Jersey United States Attorney (and current Supreme Court justice) Sam Alito and the recently deceased by suicide former AUSA John Fahy. Specifically, Bergrin chose to assist two police detectives he knew were being wrongfully prosecuted by the Newark office and was told that if he continued, his career would be over.
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Current U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman was specifically named by Bergrin as having been one of the prosecutors who threatened to end his career.
Finally, Bergrin reached the matter of Iraq. He cited his six trips to Iraq and described being told by U.S. officials that if he persisted in his efforts to expose actions of the U.S. government, he would be "killed or kidnapped." Cavanaugh appeared to grow uneasy as Bergrin said, "I didn't know that the president, vice-president and secretary of state would deny torture."
And that was when Cavanaugh pulled the plug. He quickly told Bergrin to "please finish up" and added "we are going far afield here." Cavanaugh was determined to see, as he had during the trial, that Bergrin's documented whistleblowing be kept out of the proceedings.
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Was Cavanaugh directed to keep any mention of Iraq out of the proceedings against Bergrin?
With little left to say Bergrin quickly concluded, allowing Cavanaugh to move to the imposition of sentence. Perhaps sensing that his part in this farce might someday be called into question, Cavanaugh began by all but saying "I'm just a federal judge" and claimed that he "must follow statute" in the imposition of sentence. Despite overseeing a trial that was a mockery of justice, he cited a need for the sentence to "promote respect for the law." Cavanaugh feigned regret as he solemnly announced, "I take no pleasure in imposing sentence, but I have a duty to do so." For an added measure of solemnity he added, "The jury has spoken."
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As was scripted all along, Bergrin received six life sentences, plus decades more prison time and even a term of supervised release thrown in for good measure. While an extreme sentence, its imposition was in many ways anti-climactic. There was never any doubt that Cavanaugh and his compatriots in the prosecutor's office would seek to dispose of Bergrin once and for all and to as great a degree as possible. The trial was never about the killing of a low level drug dealer in Newark or the federal government's alleged concern over his demise. The sheer numbers of such killings that go unpunished make the idea laughable. Rather, this case was all about retribution and may be the most extreme example yet of the government's ongoing war on whistleblowers. Begrin's conviction and life sentence is not only retributive, but is also intended to have a dissuasive effect upon others contemplating a similar course of action. The war on whistleblowers continues.