WHITE PLAINS, N. Y. &
Former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik pleaded not guilty today to federal corruption charges.
Kerik, the police commissioner under then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a failed nominee for homeland security secretary, was indicted Thursday on 16 counts including conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and lying to the IRS. Authorities say that over a six-year period, from 1999 through 2004, Kerik failed to report more than $500,000 in income.
He surrendered earlier Friday to the FBI in suburban White Plains, where he was fingerprinted and processed before his court appearance.
Standing before the judge, Kerik appeared calm and spoke only to say, "Not guilty, your honor," and answer a few personal questions. He was ordered to surrender his passport and any firearms, and to have no contact with potential witnesses. He was to be released on $500,000 bond, secured by his home in New Jersey.
Kerik's case could prove to be an ongoing embarrassment for Giuliani, a Republican presidential candidate.
"It's a sad day when this office returns an indictment against a former law enforcement officer," U.S. Attorney Michael J. Garcia said at a news conference.
If convicted, Kerik could face up to 142 years in prison and $4.75 million in penalties.
The indictment, unsealed Friday, alleges Kerik made false statements to the White House and other federal officials during his failed bid to head the Homeland Security department. Those statements involved failure to disclose payments from a contractor alleged to have mob ties, according to the indictment.
Giuliani appointed Kerik police commissioner in 2000 and endorsed his 2004 nomination to head the Department of Homeland Security. Days after President Bush introduced Kerik as his nominee, however, Kerik announced he was withdrawing his name because of tax issues involving his former nanny.
Prosecutors had been presenting evidence to a federal grand jury for several months.
The investigation of Kerik, 52, arose from allegations that, while a city official, he accepted $165,000 in renovations to his Bronx apartment, paid for by a mob-connected construction company that sought his help in winning city contracts.
Garcia said some of the payments detailed in the indictment took place after Kerik became police commissioner.
"During the time that Kerik secretly accepted these payments, he lobbied city officials on behalf of his benefactors &
in effect selling his office in violation of his duty to the people of this city," Garcia said.
David A. Cardona, head of the criminal division of the New York FBI office, noted that the public considers "a beat cop accepting a free cup of coffee" improper.
"If a free cup of coffee is wrong, Kerik's long list of alleged crimes is repugnant," he said.
Kerik pleaded guilty last year to a misdemeanor charge in state court, admitting that the renovations constituted an illegal gift from the construction firm. The plea spared him jail time and preserved his career as a security consultant, but his troubles resurfaced when federal authorities convened their own grand jury to investigate allegations that he failed to report as income tens of thousands of dollars in services from his friends and supporters.
Kerik's efforts in response to the Sept. 11 attacks helped burnish a career that came close to a Cabinet post.
Giuliani frequently says he made a mistake in recommending Kerik to be Homeland Security chief, but that might not be enough to avoid the political damage of a drawn-out criminal case involving his one-time protege.
During a campaign stop Thursday in Dubuque, Iowa, Giuliani was asked whether he still stood by Kerik. He sidestepped that question and said the issue had to be decided by the courts.
"A lot of public comment about it is inconsistent with its getting resolved in the right way in the courts," Giuliani said.
Associated Press Writers Tom Hays and Pat Milton in New York City contributed to this report.
Bernard Kerik pleads not guilty
WHITE PLAINS, N. Y. &