Ex-N.Y. police head says he'll fight charges

Kerik's legal problems may affect Giuliani's presidential chances

November 10, 2007|By New York Times News Service

A defiant Bernard B. Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner, vowed yesterday to fight a 16-count federal indictment, setting the stage for legal proceedings that could cast a shadow over the presidential campaign of his friend and former mentor, former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, deep into the 2008 election season.

The new charges in some ways echo the case brought against Kerik last year by state prosecutors, who allowed him to plead guilty to misdemeanor charges of accepting costly renovations to his Bronx apartment and failing to disclose a $28,000 loan to help buy it.

At the heart of that case were allegations that a construction company with suspected ties to organized crime paid for the renovations in the hopes that Kerik would help it obtain a city license.

There are also new elements to the indictment that was unsealed yesterday, including charges that Kerik failed to disclose a $250,000 loan financed by an unnamed Israeli businessman and did not report as income more than $200,000 in rent paid by a developer on an Upper East Side Manhattan luxury apartment.

Kerik, wearing a dark blue suit with a flag pin on the lapel, pleaded not guilty at the federal courthouse in White Plains, N.Y., and then walked down the steps to address news cameras and reporters.

"My life has been marked by challenge," Kerik said. "Whether it was growing up, being a cop, Rikers Island, the New York City Police Department or the worst challenge, until this time, my challenges during and after 9/11. This is a battle I'm going to fight."

He was released on $500,000 bail, secured by his New Jersey home, and forced to surrender his firearms and passport.

In a sign of the political problems that Kerik's case could pose for Giuliani, the campaign of Sen. John McCain, a rival for the Republican nomination, seized on the indictment to criticize Giuliani for ignoring warning signs about Kerik.

"A president's judgment matters, and Rudy Giuliani has repeatedly placed personal loyalty over regard for the facts," said Rick Davis, McCain's campaign manager.

In announcing the indictment, Michael J. Garcia, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, accused Kerik of failing to report more than $500,000 in income from 1999 through 2004, which includes three years as the city's correction and police commissioner.

He said Kerik, who was briefly President Bush's nominee to lead the Homeland Security Department, had sold his office in exchange for $250,000 in apartment renovations.

"It is a sad day when this office returns an indictment against a former law enforcement officer, particularly one who served in positions as high as those held by Bernard Kerik," Garcia said during a news conference.

If convicted of the most serious charges, Kerik could receive a maximum of 20 years in prison, although under sentencing guidelines, any prison term probably would be much shorter.

The indictment marked the latest chapter in Kerik's fall from grace. He left office in 2002 with international fame from his time at Giuliani's side after the Sept. 11 attacks and found new wealth from a best-selling memoir about his rise from hardscrabble beginnings.

But his life unraveled as it reached its highest moment in 2004, when Bush nominated him for the Homeland Security position. Giuliani had recommended him for the job.

Kerik soon withdrew the nomination in the wake of disclosures involving his employment of an undocumented alien as a nanny. News reports soon followed, exploring financial entanglements and ethical problems that led the city to launch an investigation.

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