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John McCain: Bernie Kerik's Path To Freedom?

September 8, 2008

While some sources say that former police commissioner Bernie Kerik is considering a plea deal in his federal tax fraud case, events at last week's Republican national convention may have given him hope he might yet avoid prison.

Kerik passed on an earlier deal a couple of years ago that would have had him serve six months. Now, the sources say, the feds have upped the ante. Their offer is three years.

But sources close to Kerik deny he's considering any new plea. That might make sense after seeing his former Great Buddy Rudy Giuliani wow the Republican faithful the other night.

Perhaps it's not so far-fetched to think that a McCain presidency could spell freedom for Bernie.

Rudy practically hijacked the convention Wednesday night and the delegates seemed to love it. He spoke so long and loud in bashing the Democrats that the RNC scratched the "This Is Your LIfe" video of Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin that was supposed to introduce her to the world before her acceptance speech. [They had to show it the following night.].

Rudy seems to be reveling in his role as party attack dog and point man on keeping America safe against terror, one of McCain's campaign themes.

So if McCain wins the election, isn't it possible he might appoint Rudy, "America's Mayor" after 9/11, Attorney General?

Would it, then, be a stretch to see Rudy engineer a pardon for Bernie, if convicted of his 15-count federal indictment, charging conspiracy, tax fraud, and failing to report $500,000 in income between 1999, when Rudy appointed him Corrections Commissioner, and 2004, two years after he retired as police commissioner?

Remember Rudy's first words after Bernie's guilty plea in the Bronx to accepting $165,000 in free renovations to his apartment by the allegedly mob-connected DiTommaso brothers that Bernie failed to report on city financial disclosure forms? Giuliani said then that Kerik's crimeswere outweighed by his "heroism" during 9/11.

Giuliani caught a break and avoided disclosure on what he knew about Kerik's mob ties when former Department of Investigations Commissioner Edward Kuriansky died of cancer. He had done the background work and presumably briefed Rudy about Bernie's alleged links to the DiTommasos before Rudy appointed Bernie police commissioner in 2000. Kurianksy's death ended any public airing of what Rudy knew and when he knew it.

And if McCain does nominate him for Attorney General, Rudy better hope the Senate confirmation committee never reads his 2002 best-selling book "Leadership." In it, he offers what can be charitably described as a laughable rationale for selecting as police commissioner the obviously unqualified former third-grade detective over then Chief of Department Joe Dunne, a 30-year veteran.

"The reasons," Giuliani states, "boil down to factors of chemistry and feel. ....It helps to have someone who feels that their loyalty is not just to the department but to the mayor and the citizens of New York." He adds, "Bernie would stand a better chance of connecting with the police officers, having been a detective in the field and not part of the brass at headquarters." That's Rudy's idea of leadership? That's his idea of judgment?

Should Bernie roll the dice and go to trial, he probably will have to contend with another former Great Buddy, his former counsel Joe Tacopina, who looks, more than ever, ready to testify for the government against him.

Earlier this year, this column described their falling out over what Kerik reportedly believes was Tacopina's betrayal after Kerik's Bronx guilty plea. More recently, a Vanity Fair magazine article suggests that Tacopina stiffed Bernie out of a million dollars as a finder's fee in a business deal involving alleged schemer Rafaelo Follieri, former boyfriend of actress Anne Hathaway.

Neither Kerik nor Tacopina responded to e-mails seeking comment about this scenario.

For Tacopina, this silence marks a change in his modus operandi regarding the media. Recently he has taken to having his lawyers threaten libel suits when reporters seek to question him.

Let's Hear It For Joe. That's Joe Dippell Jr., president of the Centurion Foundation, who was barred by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly from hosting top brass in his suite at the U.S. Tennis Open after a bunch of them were spotted there a year ago.

People far and near have come to Dippell's aid, pointing out his many kindnesses to top police officials. They say he allowed many of them to crash in his three-bedroom Battery Park City apartment after 9/11, including a deputy chief on Kelly's staff. In addition, Dippell is said to have helped another person even closer to Kelly when she visited Russia a few years ago — Veronica Kelly, the commissioner's wife.

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Copyright © 2008 Leonard Levitt