United States v. Bergrin, No. 11-4300 (3d Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
Defendant, a former federal prosecutor and prominent defense attorney, was indicted on charges including violations of the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Reasoning that the RICO charges were inappropriate in light of the disparate nature of the substantive crimes that served as racketeering predicates, the district court dismissed. The Third Circuit reversed. On remand, the government filed a 33-count superseding indictment charging RICO violations, witness tampering (including facilitation of murder), participation in a cocaine-trafficking conspiracy, and tax evasion. The district court ordered the murder counts severed and tried them first, prohibiting the government from introducing evidence of two other witness-murder plots. The jury was unable to reach a verdict. After the jury was dismissed, the government, anticipating retrial, asked whether the court would adhere to its earlier evidentiary rulings. “Absolutely,” was the response, though the court noted that the government would be permitted to try to convince it otherwise. The Third Circuit vacated the ruling excluding evidence of the other plots and remanded for reassignment; the court’s statements before and after the earlier appeal indicate that its "impartiality might reasonably be questioned."