Federal background check on Kerik turns up a secret third marriage

Homeland post nominee never mentioned wife

December 14, 2004|By Sean Gardiner and Leonard Levitt | Sean Gardiner and Leonard Levitt,NEWSDAY

NEW YORK - Investigators conducting a background check of Bernard Kerik last week as part of his confirmation hearing learned that the then-secretary of Homeland Security nominee had been married to a woman he has apparently kept a secret for the past 20 years.

Kerik did not acknowledge the marriage in his best-selling autobiography, The Lost Son: A Life in Pursuit of Justice.

Instead, he wrote about only two marriages, one to a New Jersey woman named Jacqueline, whom he married in 1983, and one to his current wife, Hala, whom he married in 1998.

But Kerik, who withdrew his name for consideration for the nation's top security post Friday, was also wed to the former Linda Hales in North Carolina.

Kerik and Hales, who has since remarried and changed her name to Priest, were married Aug. 10, 1978, when she was 27 and he was three weeks shy of 24, according to her lawyer, Ronnie Mitchell. They separated in 1982 and were officially divorced June 6, 1983, Mitchell said.

In Kerik's book, he wrote that he married Jacqueline in the winter of 1983, raising questions about whether his first and second marriages overlapped.

In New Jersey, marriage records are not open to the public, and Newsday could not ascertain the date of the marriage to Jacqueline Kerik.

In his book, he wrote that by December 1981, he had left North Carolina and returned to New Jersey, where he met a woman named "Jackie" while he was working as a jail guard. In October 1982, he left his job as a corrections officer in Passaic and took a security position at a hospital in Saudi Arabia, "but I found I missed Jackie."

"After four months in Saudi Arabia, I flew home to New Jersey and we were quickly engaged and married," he wrote. He returned to New Jersey a few months later in the "spring of 1983" and returned to Riyadh with Jacqueline, he wrote.

When questioned yesterday, an aide to Kerik said that, contrary to what he wrote, Kerik married Jacqueline in September 1983 and he and Priest were divorced in 1981 or 1982.

Newsday is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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