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LawCrossing Feature

Lying to the Court, Valerie, and People V. Bergin Recently this month, the backroom tables at bar associations often witnessed discussions on the case of Detroit city attorney Valerie Colbert-Osamuede charged for lying to the court. Of course, Valerie’s case had extra spice because it was linked to the text-message scandal that devastated the career of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Valerie was charged for lying to the judge over the scandal and then lying to the attorney discipline panel. Valerie received a ninety day suspension and is still on city payroll. However, Valerie can’t beat Bergrin when it comes to committing professional misconduct and getting away with it.

Paul Bergrin was a truly famous federal prosecutor who

heed of the seriousness with which we view inaccurate

later became a defense lawyer for celebrities and street

representations of fact, and those who supervise them

gangs. One of his most famous cases was defending

to take affirmative steps to prevent a recurrence.”

the military officials charged at Abu Ghraib human rights violations.

But lawyers keep lying to the court. The motives vary from trying to protect a client to trying to protect one’s

Okay, so what did he do that was so interesting? Mr.

own skin.

Bergrin, who was responsibly representing his client, one Jacob Itzler who ran an escort service, was moved

In the case of Valerie, the blame was that she did not

to protect the business interests of his client when the

disclose a confidential agreement meant to cover up

client was arrested in January 2005. Mr. Bergrin and

text messages between Kilpatrick and a top aide, and

two of his associates, happily took charge of running

the role those messages had in settling a 2007 lawsuit

the beauties of TriBeCa call-girl service, and in 2007,

by a whistleblower with more than eight million dollars

were indicted for disguising the proceeds of the escort

of public money.

center through shell companies. Allegedly, the amount discovered only in credit card receipts was more than

She said she plain forgot about that deal.

$800,000. The Attorney Discipline Board panel reports, “One is While the original indictment on counts of felony money

hard-pressed to believe an attorney involved in the

laundering and promoting prostitution could have taken

litigation would misplace, forget or simply lose sight

Bergrin to prison for at least 25 years, what came to

of such an important document.” But they had no

the fore was the truly horrendous fact that he had lied

other option but to accept the explanation. And the

to the judge. Consequently, Bergrin walked away with

penalty with regard to precedents was a nine-month

a light probationary sentence by pleading guilty on just


two minor misdemeanors. Seems, professional misconduct, inasmuch as it applies The law is a bit tougher on prosecutors who lie and in

to lying to the court, is also used as a gateway to divert

United States v. Jacobson, 1982, the 2nd Circuit federal

attention from more serious offenses, if Bergrin and

court excoriated the prosecutor by name and remarked,

Valerie is to be read through.

“We expect those government counsel involved to take


Lying to the Court, Valerie, and People V. Bergin  
Lying to the Court, Valerie, and People V. Bergin  

Lawyers keep lying to the court. The motives vary from trying to protect a client to trying to protect one’s own skin.