Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bernie Kerik, Rudy Giuliani's Ex-Head of New York Police, Gets 4 Years in Prison by Sam Dolnick-

Bernard B. Kerik, a former New York police commissioner who rose to national prominence, was sentenced to four years in prison on Thursday after pleading guilty to eight felony charges, including tax fraud and lying to White House officials.

Under the terms of a plea agreement reached in November on the eve of his trial, the prosecution and the defense recommended that Judge Stephen C. Robinson sentence Mr. Kerik to 27 to 33 months in prison. But the judge departed from the sentencing recommendations, giving Mr. Kerik a longer sentence.

“I think it’s fair to say that with great power comes great responsibility and great consequences,” Judge Robinson said. “I think the damage caused by Mr. Kerik is in some ways immeasurable.”

The sentencing was the end of a legal saga in which federal prosecutors denounced Mr. Kerik, a former detective who rose to the upper echelons of power, as a corrupt official who sought to trade his authority for lavish benefits.

Mr. Kerik, looking thin and clean-shaven as he entered the courtroom in United States District Court here, spoke briefly.

“ I make no excuses,” he said. “I take full responsibility for the grave mistakes I’ve made. Believe me when I say I have learned from this and I have become and will continue to become a better person.

“I know I must be punished,” he continued. “I only ask that you allow me to return to my wife and two little girls as soon as possible.”

As the judge delivered the sentence, Mr. Kerik sat impassionately at the defense table, flanked by his lawyers. Behind him, his supporters — including Geraldo Rivera and Steven McDonald, a former New York City police officer who was paralyzed from the neck down in 1986 — filled the gallery.

Mr. Kerik will begin serving his sentence on May 17. Prosecutors had requested that Mr. Kerik be sent to prison immediately, but Judge Robinson allowed him to surrender later to get his affairs in order in light of the longer sentence. Mr. Kerik has awaited sentencing under strict house arrest at his home in Franklin Lakes, N.J.

The sentence follows a fall from a rarefied perch where he wielded power with a signature mix of brash confidence and tough-guy charm.

He was a close ally of former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, whom he served as a bodyguard and driver. Mr. Giuliani then tapped him for a senior position in the Correction Department, and he went on to become the agency’s commissioner. As testament to his clout, Mr. Kerik had a jail named after him in downtown Manhattan. (The name has since been changed.)

Mr. Kerik later served as police commissioner, and his performance during after 9/11 attacks turned him into a national figure, earning him the respect of President George W. Bush, who nominated him to lead the Department of Homeland Security. That bid quickly collapsed in scandal, marking the beginning of the end of Mr. Kerik’s career.

The case against Mr. Kerik centered on charges that a New Jersey construction company, the Interstate Industrial Corporation, which was suspected of ties to organized crime, had paid for renovations at Mr. Kerik’s home in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. Prosecutors said company officials had hoped Mr. Kerik would help them obtain a city license.

In addition to pleading guilty to two counts of tax fraud and one count of making a false statement on a loan application, Mr. Kerik also pleaded guilty to five counts of making false statements to the federal government while being vetted for senior posts.

Prosecutors had called for Judge Robinson to make an example out of Mr. Kerik, and to punish him for his “egotism and hubris.”

Mr. Kerik’s lawyer, Michael F. Bachner, had asked the judge for leniency, citing his years of public service, and the dozens of letters of support written by family members, former colleagues in the Police Department, and even strangers who said they admired Mr. Kerik’s bravery.

After the sentencing, Mr. Kerik paused outside the courthouse, where he read a statement before being driven off in a black sport utility vehicle.

“I’d like to apologize to the American people for the mistakes I’ve made and for which I have just accepted responsibility,” he said. “As history is written, I can only hope that I will be judged for the 30 years of service I have given to this country and the city of New York. It has not and will not diminish my love for this country.”

When asked if Mr. Kerik intended to appeal the sentence, his lawyer said, “No comment.”