Bernie Kerik — Hero? Victim? Crook?
December 8, 2008
It would be easy to belittle Bernie Kerik for throwing a fundraiser last week to defray his mounting legal costs, except that it is all so sad.
None of the famous faces associated with Kerik — Rudy Giuliani, celebrity lawyer Joe Tacopina or glamorous publisher Judith Regan — showed up.
This is an indication of how far the NYPD’s 40th Police Commissioner has sunk since federal prosecutors indicted him last November for a litany of crimes that range from accepting $165,000 in apartment renovations from a contractor accused of mob ties to filing false income tax returns and lying to the White House after President Bush nominated him to become Director of Homeland Security.
If that weren’t enough, prosecutors tacked on new details to his indictment — not coincidentally the day after media accounts of the fundraiser appeared.
The feds then delivered a coup de grâce, claiming that between 1998 and 2006 —the period that encompasses his tours as Corrections and Police Commissioner — Kerik had engaged in an eight-year “crime spree.”
At the fundraiser, Kerik portrayed himself as a hero of 9/11 turned into an unfair target of overzealous prosecutors.
He played a 12-minute silent film that included shots of him at Ground Zero alongside a shell-shocked looking President Bush.
He displayed an enlarged New York Post editorial of Sept 20, 2001, that advocated keeping him Police Commissioner “for life.”
Both Giuliani and Tacopina declined comment on their non-appearances.
Giuliani is considered a possible gubernatorial candidate.
Tacopina is expected to testify against Kerik at his federal trial, scheduled to
begin next month. The feds have charged that Kerik lied to Tacopina about the free apartment renovation and that Tacopina passed along those lies to negotiate a successful plea deal with Bronx prosecutors.
Of course, there was no Judith Regan at the event. Kerik’s former lover, who published his autobiography, “The Lost Son,” has long since moved on.
Even Kerik’s “brother,” as Kerik liked to call John Picciano, was a no-show.
Pitch, who had served as Bernie’s fixer in both Corrections and the NYPD, departed for Brazil a couple of years ago, a breath ahead of his creditors.
More recently, he has been lamming it down south, where the feds have probably found him. Don’t be surprised if, like Tacopina, he turns up at Kerik’s trial as a government witness. He did not respond to an email asking about his non-appearance at the fundraiser.
With so many friends gone, Kerik turned to his family, tapping his son Joe, a cop in Newark, to introduce him.
“When you become a target you know who your true friends are,” Joe said.
Then it was Kerik’s turn. For someone who, if found guilty, faces 142 years in prison and $4.7 in fines; who has paid an estimated $2 million in legal fees; and has lost millions in overseas contracts because the government revoked his passport, Kerik seemed remarkably upbeat.
He told a reporter from the Bergen Record that he had made a mistake in pleading guilty to two misdemeanors in the Bronx, regarding the $165,000 in apartment renovations and his failure to disclose a personal loan of $28,000 from Nathan Berman, a real estate developer.
The feds, he has said, used his guilty plea to, in effect, re-indict him for the same crimes.
In his speech, he called his indictment “selective prosecution,” and “people overreaching.”
In closing, he thanked his long-suffering wife Hala. A former dental hygienist, who was born in Syria, she has apparently forgiven Bernie his carnal indiscretions.
For a time she was so angry at the government that she wanted to take down the American flag that flies outside their home, reportedly saying, “This is what the government does to people in Syria.”
Apparently her anger has not affected Bernie, who signed off with the words, “God Bless America.”
For better than a decade, he and his predecessor, retired Chief Tom Fahey, served, alternately and expertly, as the department’s public face as commanding officers of DCPI, its public information office.
Some of Mike’s memorable moments:
Copyright © 2008 Leonard Levitt