Deshawn "Kemo" McCray was a personable, loquacious young man who had connections through acquaintances to one of Newark's most notorious gangs, facts that made him attractive to law enforcement agencies looking to make inroads into the city's lucrative drug trade.
Using the threat of a gun possession charge as leverage, the FBI persuaded McCray to inform on members of the Grape Street Crips in 2002 and 2003, and his efforts yielded what the agency considered a big fish in late 2003: William Baskerville, who authorities believed supplied cocaine to the gang.
McCray's help came at a price, however: A few months after Baskerville's arrest, McCray was slain on a Newark street corner, shot four times in the head as his stepfather looked on
The events leading up to his death were the focus Tuesday during the trial of a once-prominent defense attorney accused of conspiring with Baskerville and others to kill McCray to prevent him from testifying against Baskerville.
Paul Bergrin faces murder and murder conspiracy counts that could put him in prison for life if he's convicted. The Army veteran once represented Queen Latifah, Lil' Kim and other entertainers but also made a reputation for representing reputed gang members.
In testimony punctuated by the playing of video and audio files Tuesday, jurors heard and saw what prosecutors say was McCray making drug buys from Baskerville. FBI Special Agent Shawn Brokos testified that the bureau paid McCray about $25,000 during his stint as an informant.
After McCray's murder in March 2004, Brokos testified, authorities heard from other informants that Baskerville and his associates were behind the killing.
Brokos recounted visiting Baskerville in jail and telling him he was a suspect and that he could face life in prison or even the death penalty.
"He turned white as a ghost," Brokos said.
Anthony Young, an associate of Baskerville's nicknamed "Fat Ant," ultimately told authorities he had shot McCray. He's expected to testify that Bergrin told him and others that McCray needed to be killed to quash the case against Baskerville.
Bergrin has denied telling anyone to harm McCray and, in his opening statement to jurors Monday, cast doubt on whether Young was even the killer. He is expected to assail the investigation of McCray's murder when he cross-examines Brokos, likely on Wednesday.