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Bloomberg's Complex Kerik Decision

July 3, 2006

In removing the name of Bernard B. Kerik from the jail complex at 125 White Street, known ingloriously through the city’s history as the Tombs, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has taken a giant step in exploding some lies and myths surrounding 9/11.

Removing Kerik’s name may be symbolic rather than substantive. But when it comes to 9/11, the symbolism is mighty.

Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani stuck Kerik’s name on the Tombs complex in those upside-down days when Giuliani and Kerik were viewed as America’s heroes. Naming the Tombs for Kerik was recognition of his two years as Corrections Commissioner before Giuliani appointed him Police Commissioner in August 2000.

We all know what has happened to Kerik since, which is why wise men don’t name buildings for people still living.

Nominated in 2004 on Giuliani’s recommendation by President George Bush as Director of Homeland Security, Kerik’s life was laid bare for all the world to see. And what the world saw were a history of personal bankruptcies, links to mobsters, a series of mistresses and a secret marriage — “The Lost Wife,“ wrote Newsday reporter Sean Gardiner who discovered her. Is there anyone who still believes Kerik withdrew his nomination because of the problems with his nanny?

On Friday, Kerik pleaded guilty to accepting $165,000 in free renovations to his Bronx apartment from an allegedly mob-connected contractor while serving as Corrections Commissioner. He also pleaded guilty to failing to report a $28,000 loan on his city financial disclosure forms from a realtor. In addition, he apparently failed to pay income tax at the time on these two transactions, although his lawyer Joe Tacopina said that’s all been taken of.

Kerik downplayed his crimes as “mistakes,” and blamed himself for what he termed his lack of sophistication. Giuliani termed the crimes “violations,” a word to seemingly mitigate their importance.

Asked Giuliani’s position on whether to remove or retain Kerik’s name on the Tombs complex, his spokeswoman Sunny [The Silent] Mindel was true to her sobriquet. “I wouldn’t bother him on a weekend,” she said.

Asked at a post-plea news conference whether she considered Kerik a crook, the city’s Department of Investigations commissioner Rose Gill Hearn, who directed much of Kerik’s investigation, was cut off by her press secretary, who shouted out, “Why don’t you ask that question of the District Attorney?” The D.A., the deliberative Robert Johnson, declined to characterize Kerik. So did Gill Hearn.

Now let’s return to Bloomberg, who since running for mayor in 2001 has had a contorted relationship with both Giuliani and Kerik.

After Giuliani endorsed him, Bloomberg publicly asked Kerik to remain as police commissioner. He added that Ray Kelly — who had also endorsed Bloomberg — would lobby Kerik, as Kelly himself didn’t want the job [Some people actually believed all that.] Kelly, of course, never spoke to Kerik.

Since becoming mayor, Bloomberg has reversed the city’s positions on a number of controversial occasions after Giuliani protested. Some of his reversals overruled even Kelly, whom Bloomberg relies on for all law enforcement matters and who has never forgiven Giuliani for firing him as police commissioner when Giuliani became mayor.

In 2003, Kelly disbanded Giuliani’s detective detail and dispatched the detectives — many of whom live in Staten Island — to assignments in the Bronx and Upper Manhattan. After Giuliani protested, the detectives were reassigned to the Staten Island’s District Attorney’s office.

When a report by McKinsey and company, which Kelly had commissioned, criticized the department’s deployment under Giuliani of its top brass to Ground Zero, following the World Trade Center attack, Giuliani also protested to Bloomberg. Kelly hasn’t issued another peep on the report.

Most recently, Bloomberg overturned his administration’s rejection of a 9ll-related disability for Giuliani commissioner Rudy Washington. Again, he did so after Giuliani protested.

Kelly has as little use for Kerik as he has for Giuliani. It was Kelly who began an investigation into Kerik’s ordering four high-tech, $50,000 security doors for One Police Plaza that were too large for the building. Kelly claimed there was no paperwork for the order, which was planned by Kerik’s chief of staff John Picciano. Picciano is now said to be a resident of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

In an unsettling footnote, D.A. Johnson said that as part of Kerik’s plea deal, the city agreed to drop all other Kerik-related investigations, including those high-tech doors.

Perhaps it was merely coincidence that as Kerik held a news conference outside the Bronx County Courthouse following his plea deal, an unmarked police helicopter swooped loud and low overhead before heading southwest towards Manhattan.

The Long View. Thomas Reppetto — the police department’s unofficial official historian and author of “The NYPD: A City and its Police” — says Kerik’s plea deal doesn’t qualify as a police scandal as his crimes occurred while serving as corrections commissioner.

That, as they say, is gilding the lily. The scandal is that information obtained by city officials about Kerik should have precluded his appointment as police commissioner. The unanswered Watergate-sounding portion of Kerik’s plea deal is this: What did Giuliani know about Kerik and when did he know it?

Neither Gill Hearn nor Johnson shed much light on this subject. Gill Hearn said that then DOI Commissioner Edward Kuriansky had briefed Giuliani and his staff on a regular basis about Kerik but added that Kuriansky didn’t know everything about him that is known today.

The Two Angelas. Angele Clemente — the mob-tracking forensic analyst who Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes has credited with leading to the indictment of former FBI agent Lindley DeVecchio — says that contrary to published reports, she never refused to cooperate with the police after she was attacked last month.

Clemente ended up at Lutheran Hospital in Brooklyn after she went to meet someone she says she thought was a law enforcement official about what Hynes and his assistant Mike L. Vecchione say was a “not unrelated” mob case.

Hynes has accused DeVecchio with providing information to mobster Gregory Scarpa Sr., which led to the murders of four people, one of whom, Patrick Porco, was killed in the confines of the 62nd precinct.

That is where Clemente went after leaving Lutheran Hospital, where she was asked to look through a photo array to search for her attacker.

She says she asked that a sketch artist the police had sought meet her not at the precinct but at the D.A’s office, where she says she felt “more comfortable because I knew people there.”

“But the D.A. and the cops were unable to pull it together,” Clemente said. Then the sketch artists cancelled and then later she did as well because her mother had suffered a stroke.

While at the 62nd precinct, she spoke with freelance reporter Angela Mosconi, who told this reporter last week that she saw on Clemente’s body what resembled “a port-wine stain.”

Yesterday, Mosconi explained that the term “port-wine stain” referred to the color of Clemente’s bruise on her body. “It was a deep, dark red bruise,” Mosconi said.

Meanwhile Clemente said that because of questions raised about her attack — including an article in this space — an FBI agent Clemente knows told her that her life is now in danger.

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Copyright © 2006 Leonard Levitt