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Standing Up For Bernie

July 24, 2006

Frank and Peter DiTommaso, founders of the New Jersey contracting company Interstate Industrial, may have thought they were being stand-up guys when they denied to a Bronx grand jury they paid $165,000 for renovations to Bernie Kerik’s Bronx apartment.

As Frank stated on Mar. 30th, according to the indictment, “Once again, I stated this several times in the interviews and earlier today, under no circumstances did me, my brother, anyone from my company have a conversation and/or authorize payments for work done on that apartment.”

Three weeks ago, however, Kerik told a different story. In pleading guilty to two misdemeanors, he admitted that Interstate had paid for the renovations.

Although Kerik did not name Peter and Frank, the two were indicted last week for lying to the grand jury.

And in what could be the unkindest cut for the brothers DiTommaso, a witness against them could be the very same Bernie Kerik.

Kerik’s attorney Joe Tacopina downplayed that possibility, telling The Times that Kerik’s admission could not be used against the DiTommasos because it was not subject to cross-examination. True, but that doesn’t preclude Bronx prosecutors from calling Kerik as a witness and asking him who in the company authorized the Kerik apartment freebie. Tacopina was said to be off with his family for the weekend and incommunicado.

Barry Kluger, chief assistant to Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson, said that nothing in Kerik’s plea agreement would prevent the D.A. from calling Kerik as a witness. But Kluger played coy about whether he will actually be called, saying no decision had been reached.

This led a veteran Bronx criminal attorney to suspect an unofficial, non-binding agreement not to call Kerik. “Perhaps this was done as an inducement for Kerik to take his misdemeanor plea,” the attorney said.

Whether or not Kerik is called a witness [The D.A. has the testimony of Tim Woods, the contractor who did the renovations and who told the grand jury that the DiTommasos paid him for the work.], the DiTommasos are but the latest of Kerik’s friends who have paid the price for his friendship.

Here are snapshot tales of three others.

 Tom Antenen. Loyal Tom, the former spokesman for the Department of Correction under Kerik, followed Kerik to One Police Plaza to become Deputy Commissioner for Public Information when former mayor Rudy Giuliani appointed Kerik police commissioner. When Kerik left the department and joined Giuliani Partners, Antenen returned to Correction.

During the Bronx grand jury investigation, Rose Gill Hearn, the city’s Commissioner of Investigations, ordered city employees not to contact Kerik. A secret court-sanctioned wiretap caught Tom talking to Bernie.

Result: Antenen lost his six-figure city job.

 John Picciano. Pitch, as he is so lovingly called, also hooked up with Bernie at Corrections, followed him over to the NYPD as chief of staff and then to Giuliani Partners. When Kerik left Giuliani Partners after flaming out as Homeland Security Director, so did Pitch.

Pitch then went on the lam, leaving his wife and five children in Long Island amidst rumors that he disappeared to avoid testifying before the Bronx grand jury investigating Kerik.

Pitch is believed to be the mastermind behind Kerik’s controversial purchase of four $50,000 high-tech security doors for the NYPD that proved too large for One Police Plaza. Current police commissioner Ray Kelly ordered the purchase investigated because he said no paperwork existed to justify it.

As part of Kerik’s misdemeanor guilty plea regarding his apartment, officials acknowledged they had agreed to drop all other investigations of Kerik, including the security doors. But whether that applies to Pitch’s role is unclear.

Result: Despite entreaties from this column to “Come in, Pitch,” Pitch has turned up in Brazil.

 Giuliani. If there is a hole in this donut, it is how much about Kerik Giuliani knew in the summer of 2000 when he appointed him police commissioner. Gill Hearn has hinted Giuliani was kept abreast of her predecessor’s investigation of Kerik at the time, but she, too, has been coy about specifics.

Result on Giuliani’s presidential candidacy as more about Kerik surfaces: Unkown.

NYPD Blue. The Southampton sexual scandal involving Christie Brinkley and Peter Cook has nothing on the one inside the NYPD -- that of a recently retired chief who left behind a pregnant sergeant in Queens, a furious wife in Long Island, and a new police job down south.

Sources deep inside the department say that when the sergeant learned the chief was about to head south, she filed a complaint that turned into a Group One Internal Affairs investigation. Group One investigates captains and above.

She also is said to have dropped a dime on the chief with the southern police department.

Meanwhile, the chief has told friends he turned down the job in the south because it didn’t pay enough. He also told a chief still on the job that Commissioner Kelly told him he could return to the NYPD [Officers have a year after retiring to change their minds.] but that he opted not to because he felt embarrassed for having left the job.

Sources inside the department tell it differently. They say that after learning the results of the IAB investigation, Kelly told the chief to forget about ever returning.

Attempts to reach the chief through the lieutenant at his last command were unsuccessful. This column frowns on embarrassing public officials for personal indiscretions so the participants will remain nameless, for now.

No News From Newark. Pablo Fonseca, the chief of staff to newly elected Newark mayor Cory Booker, has been talking to Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau about the city’s search for a new police director.

Morgenthau’s spokeswoman Barbara Thompson says the discussion was “general” and did not involve specific candidates, one of whom is said to be Deputy Commissioner for Operations Garry McCarthy.

Fonseca and other Newark officials did not return calls.

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Copyright © 2006 Leonard Levitt