Bernard Kerik pleads not guilty to corruption charges
(11/09/07) WHITE PLAINS (AP) - Former New York City policecommissioner Bernard Kerik pleaded not guilty Friday to awide-ranging indictment charging him with conspiracy, corruptionand tax evasion. Kerik surrendered earlier Friday to the FBI in suburban WhitePlains, where he was fingerprinted and processed before hisappearance in federal court. The indictment accuses Kerik, a failed nominee for the HomelandSecurity Department, of conspiring while a public official with amob-connected construction firm to accept tens of thousands ofdollars in renovations to his Bronx apartment, and then lying tocover up the alleged scheme. The indictment, unsealed Friday, also alleges Kerik made falsestatements to the White House and other federal officials duringhis failed bid to head Homeland Security. The charges include conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and lyingto the IRS. Authorities say that over a six-year period, from 1999through 2004, Kerik failed to report more than $500,000 in income. "It's a sad day when this office returns an indictment againsta former law enforcement officer," U.S. Attorney Michael J. Garciasaid at a news conference. If convicted, Kerik could theoretically face up to 142 years inprison and $4.75 million in penalties. During his court appearance, Kerik appeared stolid and spokeonly to say, "Not guilty, your honor," and answer a few personalquestions. He was ordered to surrender his passport and any firearms, andordered to have no contact with a list of potential witnesses. Hewas to be released on $500,000 bond, secured by his primaryresidence in New Jersey. Kerik was appointed police commissioner in 2000 by then-MayorGiuliani, and the indictment could complicate matters for theRepublican candidate as the first primaries draw near. Giuliani endorsed Kerik's 2004 nomination to head HomelandSecurity. Only days after Bush introduced Kerik as his nominee,Kerik announced he was withdrawing his name because of tax issuesinvolving his former nanny. Garcia said some of the payments detailed in the indictment tookplace after Kerik became police commissioner.
"During the time that Kerik secretly accepted these payments,he lobbied city officials on behalf of his benefactors - in effectselling his office in violation of his duty to the people of thiscity," Garcia said. David A. Cardona, head of the criminal division of the New YorkFBI office, noted that the public considers it improper if "a beatcop accepting a free cup of coffee." "If a free cup of coffee is wrong, Kerik's long list of allegedcrimes is repugnant," he said. The indictment does not include any charges stemming fromallegations of eavesdropping related to former Westchester CountyDistrict Attorney Jeanine Pirro's pursuit of information aboutwhether her husband was having an affair. Prosecutors had been presenting evidence to a federal grand juryfor several months. The investigation of Kerik, 52, arose from allegations that,while a city official, he accepted $165,000 in renovations to hisBronx apartment, paid for by a mob-connected construction companythat sought his help in winning city contracts. Kerik pleaded guilty last year to a misdemeanor charge in statecourt, admitting that the renovations constituted an illegal giftfrom the construction firm. The plea spared him jail time andpreserved his career as a security consultant, but his troublesresurfaced when federal authorities convened their own grand juryto investigate allegations that he failed to report as income tensof thousands of dollars in services from his friends andsupporters. Kerik was police commissioner on Sept. 11, 2001, and his effortsin response to the terrorist attacks helped burnish a career thatcame close to a Cabinet post. Giuliani frequently says he made a mistake in recommending Kerikto be Homeland Security chief, but that might not be enough toavoid the political damage of a drawn-out criminal case involvinghis one-time protege. During a campaign stop Thursday in Dubuque, Iowa, Giuliani wasasked whether he still stood by Kerik. He sidestepped that questionand said the issue had to be decided by the courts. "A lot of public comment about it is inconsistent with itsgetting resolved in the right way in the courts," Giuliani said.Related Information:Kerik's press conferenceU.S. Attorney comments on the indictment