Tag Archives: bergrin

Police: Woman Arrested For Spreading Facebook Photos Of Undercover Cop

 

Melissa Walthall mug shot

Police: Woman Arrested For Spreading Facebook Photos Of Undercover Cop.  This is fascinating…

Apparently Melissa Walthall has been charged with ‘Retaliation’ for posting the Facebook photo of an undercover officer that testified against her friend.  My gut instinct is that publishing a photo that was previously published on a social media site is highly unlikely to be criminal behavior.  Additionally, while an undercover officer’s identity is should be kept secret, law enforcement’s ability to punish someone for revealing that identity is likely abrogated when they are already publicly identified.  Such identification can occur by testifying in open court, which is apparently what happened here.  That is, it’s not a secret if the guy states his name on the record, and in public, as most court proceedings are.

I actually had to look up the statute for retaliation, as it is not frequently utilized.  My best guess is that agents are proceeding on a theory under section (b) that her conduct threatens bodily injury against a witness who had testified.  I straight reading of the statute would suggest this is an inappropriate application: it appears the statute indicates that the conduct should be threatening.  Disclosure of the identity, which isn’t a private fact if the officer had already been publicly revealed, would have to be coupled some knowledge or intent that it would lead to bodily injury.  That’s what prosecutors are alleging in the Paul Bergrin murder case.  Disclosure itself does not likely constitute a “threat”.  Additionally, I doubt that this could be a “disclosure”, due to the fact that he already testified in public, and because he posted the picture on Facebook.

Accused killer-attorney accuses prosecutors of malfeasance: Paul Bergrin update

Paul Bergrin

Paul Bergrin’s  attorneys recently filed a letter to the the judge  requesting a hearing on their claim accusing the government of leaning on witness to coerce them to testify positively against him.  He represented himself months ago in his first murder trial, and received a hung jury.  Since then, the judge was ordered off the case, and prosecutors are trying to get the new judge to try more of his charges at the same time (where the murder charge had been severed).  The new trial is tentatively scheduled for next month.

Bergrin’s attorneys are now asking for a hearing on the matter, which could result in testimony being thrown out.  Even if they are unsuccessful in this effort, they get additional opportunity to prepare their defense and cross examination of these witnesses.  Prosecutors have dismissed the request as a chance for the Defense to score a deposition. 

Bergrin was formerly a hotshot defense attorney (and former prosecutor, himself).  The most serious of these charges are that he participated murders by conduct such as giving names to conspirators and suggesting they should be elimated to help his case.  The government’s case featured jailhouse snitches and other witnesses with significant reliability issues, independent of the coercion that is now alleged.  The case has seen some heated animosity in the courtroom, leading up to the previous judge’s ouster.  I haven’t found anymore recent articles, but I will post them here as they come up.