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Bernie Kerik — Betrayed By Joe?

September 29, 2008

Perry Carbone, the lead federal prosecutor in the tax fraud case against former police commissioner Bernie Kerik, left the U.S. Attorney’s office last week. Whether this will delay Kerik’s trial, due to start in January, remains unclear.

His defense strategy, though, is becoming clear: blame his former best friend, former business associate and former attorney, Joe Tacopina.

In a pre-trial motion filed last week, Kerik alleges that the feds turned his “former trusted counsel Joseph Tacopina against him” to build a criminal case that Tacopina had resolved with the Bronx district Attorney the year before.

In his motion, Kerik seeks a hearing to discover how Tacopina “came to be interviewed by the government and to make statements that the government now intends to use against” Bernie.

With Tacopina representing him, Kerik pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors in the summer of 2006 in the Bronx. He admitted accepting apartment renovations worth $165,000 in free renovations from a construction company allegedly connected to the mob, and failing to report that gift to the city.

On or about March 12, 2007, Kerik’s motion alleges, the government served a subpoena on Tacopina’s law office, demanding billing records and other financial information concerning his relationship with. Kerik. Tacopina then dropped Kerik as a client.

“[F]or reasons that have not been disclosed, Mr. Tacopina subsequently

agreed to be interviewed by the government, perhaps more than once,” says Kerik’s motion.

“The concerns are heightened — not mitigated — by the fact that Mr. Tacopina was sufficiently concerned about being questioned by the government that he brought with him an attorney to represent his own — but not Mr. Kerik’s — interests, and that he was interviewed apparently without the compulsion of a grand jury subpoena and outside the structure of the grand jury so that there is no verbatim record of what transpired,” Kereik’s motion reads.

The government has also charged that Kerik lied to Tacopina about the renovations and that Tacopina passed on those lies to Bronx prosecutors in securing Kerik’s guilty plea, sparing him jail time.

Tacopina, the government has stated, acted “honorably.”

Tacopina said: “At no time did I discuss attorney-client privileged conversations. I even had an ethics lawyer, who specializes in attorney-client law, with me. Period. End of story.”

Ray's Way, No Way. Police commissioner Ray Kelly’s attempts to distance himself from the fatal police shooting of Sean Bell has resulted in another senseless death of a civilian and more embarrassment for the department and for him when police shot a mentally deranged man with a Taser gun, causing him to fall 10 feet from a ledge to his death.

Expanded use of Tasers was one of two supposedly reformist policies Kelly announced following Bell’s death from a barrage of 50 police bullets. The second was a sobriety test for any cop who fired his weapon and hit someone.

What either of these polices has to do with Bell’s shooting remains a mystery.

Sobriety tests have proved as embarrassing to Kelly as the Tasers. This summer, off-duty detective Ivan Davison came to the aid of a man being beaten up outside a Queens bar. In breaking up the fight, he returned fire and wounded the gunman. Per Kelly’s new order, he took a sobriety test — and failed.

Instead of rightfully hailing him as a hero for helping a man and capturing a thug, the police department suspended Davison. Only after the Post and others pointed out the absurdity of disciplining someone who had risked his own life did Kelly intervene. Under pressure from Our Mayor Mike, he declared Davison a hero.

In last week’s Taser incident, Kelly placed the lieutenant who ordered the shooting on desk duty, stripping him of his gun and badge. The officer who fired the Taser was also placed on desk duty.

All but forgotten is how either sobriety testing or the expanded use of Tasers could have prevented the Bell shooting, where detectives mistakenly thought he or his friends had a gun. This notion came from another detective on an undercover assignment who had been drinking inside a strip club where Bell and his friends had been partying.

Should those department rules permitting the undercover to drink be modified? Despite his so-called reformist rules, Kelly hasn’t answered that question.

Ben and Bernie. So now they are proposing that The Tombs, known for five years as the Bernard B. Kerik Complex, be renamed after another police and corrections commissioner, Ben Ward.

The city’s first black police commissioner, Ward, in his fashion, was as colorful as Kerik, scaring the bejeesus out of anyone and everyone at Police Plaza between 1983 and 1988, although no one ever accused him of being anything less than honest — at least when it came to money.

More than any police commissioner before or since, Ward had paid his dues. For 11 years before being named the city’s top cop, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and others had falsely accused Ward of ordering the release of a dozen Muslim suspects after the fatal shooting of Police Officer Philip Cardillo inside a Harlem mosque in 1972. The person who actually gave that order was then Chief of Detectives Al Seedman.

Despite Ward’s hard-won acceptance, two embarrassing incidents forever marked his tenure as police commissioner. The first was his three-day blow at the time of the Palm Sunday massacre in April 1984. City officials couldn’t find him during this high-profile crime. That was because Ward went “on a holiday on a car trip in his own car visiting various places between Baltimore and Washington,” as his prim and savvy spokesman Alice McGuillion put it at the time.

Returning to New York for a meeting at City Hall, Ward’s car broke down on the New Jersey Turnpike. Fearing he would be late, he telephoned the department’s Highway Patrol, which sent a patrol car to meet him — and the woman he was traveling with — at the New York State line.

In the second incident, Ward got drunk at the PBA’s 1984 annual convention, and urinated in front of scores of union delegates on the door to the helicopter waiting to return him to Police Plaza. Contrary to NYPD lore, he didn’t relieve himself while airborne, according to a former top department official who witnessed this special moment.

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Copyright © 2008 Leonard Levitt