His old title was "commissioner." His new title is "defendant."
A 16-count federal indictment unsealed today charges Bernard Kerik, the former police commissioner of New York under then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, with conspiracy, tax fraud and making false statements.
Kerik pleaded not guilty today and was released on $500,000 bail. He was ordered to turn over his passport and any firearms as well as to have no contact with potential witnesses
But the underlying issues are simply these: Kerik allegedly failed to provide New York and its citizens their "intangible right" to his honest services, and Kerik allegedly lied — time and time again — during the vetting process that preceded his nomination by President George Bush for the position of head of the Department of Homeland Security, according to the indictment.
"It was a part and object of the conspiracy that defendant Bernard B. Kerik…unlawfully, willfully and knowingly devised and intended to devise a scheme and artifice to defraud, and to deprive the City of New York and its citizens of their intangible right to the honest services of Bernard B. Kerik," the indictment states.
By taking payments Kerik "in effect" was "selling his office," said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Michael Garcia.
"On the steps of the courthouse after his arraignment, Kerik called the court fight his toughest challenge since 9/11, and said, "I’m disappointed that the government has brought this case…This is a battle I’m gonna fight. I"ll let my attorney talk about the case."
"Bernie Kerik is gonna fight these charges, and he’s gonna beat these charges," Kerik’s attorney Ken Breen added. "We look forward to our day in court."
U.S. attorney Garcia also said the government would not "tolerate lies" during the "vetting process" of a secretary post and noted the process "is there for a reason."
Handed down by a federal grand jury in suburban White Plains, N.Y., the indictment outlines a long list of alleged deceptions, and alleged corrupt acts, and contains Kerik’s own damning e-mail in connection to charges that Kerik accepted renovations worth about $225,000 from a company seeking to do business with the city, failed to disclose those benefits and took steps "to convince city regulators that contractors were free of mob ties."
"I put my reputation and integrity in the line defending whatever (John Doe #3) asked without question," Kerik wrote in an e-mail to "John Doe #3," an employee of the renovation company. "I’m walking on eggshells until this apartment is done. A bullshit $170,000, [sic] I had to beg, borrow and [expletive] for the down payment and I’m still [expletive] over the $5,000. [sic] I need for closing if it happens. Then the renovations."
The indictment charges that Kerik hid the benefits he received during his tenure as city corrections commissioner and then when he served as police commissioner.
In addition, the indictment charges Kerik with multiple counts of false tax returns including a failure to report $236,000 in rent paid by a third party for his Manhattan apartment, a failure to report $75,000 in book income and taking about $80,000 in "phony charitable deductions." Kerik also allegedly took home office deductions in a New Jersey home in which he did not yet live.
The list of alleged deceptions also includes "multiple false statements to the White House in connection with his application for positions as adviser to the President’s Homeland Security Advisory Council," head of the Department Of Homeland Security and to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.
Kerik faces, if convicted, a maximum aggregate sentence of 142 years in prison and $4,750,000 in fines, although any actual sentence would be much shorter under federal sentencing guidelines.
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