Targeting Lawyers: The Case of Paul Bergrin - by Stephen Lendman
The Constitution's Sixth Amendment assures defendants in "all criminal prosecutions" the right to speedy, public, fair trials with "the Assistance of (competent) Counsel for his (or her) defense" provided free if unable to pay for it. The Fourteenth Amendment holds government subservient to the law and guarantees due process respect for everyone's legal right to judicial fairness on matters relating to life, liberty, or property.
In America and elsewhere, defending unpopular clients is a long, honored tradition. So is upholding the law and challenging unfettered power that defiles it. Yet doing it risks lawyers being criminalized for doing their job too vigorously or making enemies of powerful, influential government or business officials in the process.
"In the best traditions of advocacy," according to her lawyer Michael Tigar, Lynne Stewart was wrongly convicted and now jailed for ethically, morally, and responsibly defending an accused terrorist Washington wanted to convict.
As New York state Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer was an aggressive prosecutor against Wall Street corruption and the Bush administration's housing bubble involvement and covertly arranged bailouts that followed. In a TV interview and February 2008 Washington Post article titled, "Predatory Lenders' Partner in Crime: How the Bush Administration Stopped the States From Stepping In to Help Consumers," he called the president a fugitive from justice and accused him of doing nothing to help consumers.
In preparing a high-profile campaign to tell all, his own indiscretions brought him down for buying sex from a high-priced prostitute in a Washington hotel. He wasn't charged, but it ruined his career and halted efforts to target some of the nation's most powerful.
Defense attorney Paul Bergrin follows in the same tradition. Like Stewart and Spitzer, he challenged the powerful and paid dearly. The New Times Times called him a "top prosecutor" before becoming one of New Jersey's "most prominent defense lawyers, representing clients as varied as Abu Ghraib defendants, the rap stars Lil' Kim and Queen Larifah and members of Newark's notorious street gangs," all of whom have the same rights as everyone to due process and judicial fairness as constitutional law demands.
Bergrin and other lawyers defended four 101st Airborne Division soldiers accused of killing four Iraqis near Samarra during the May 2006 Operation Iron Triangle. The case made international headlines when evidence showed Col. Michael Steele gave orders to "kill all military age males," and Professor Stjepan Mestrovic wrote a book on what happened, titled "The 'Good Soldier' On Trial: A Sociological Study of Misconduct by the US Military Pertaining to Operation Iron Triangle, Iraq."