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Kerik vs. Tacopina: A Shootout Not at the OK Corral

March 17, 2014

Bernard Kerik vs. Joe Tacopina could be the hottest show in town this year.

The city's disgraced former police commissioner is suing the celebrity criminal lawyer — whose clients include Victoria Gotti and Alex Rodriguez — for negligence and malpractice.

Kerik blames Tacopina — once his business partner and top bud — for Kerik's 2009 conviction on eight federal felony counts, inclduing filing false income tax returns, lying about his apartment renovations, and misleading the White House during his 2005 Homeland Security nomination. As a result, he spent four years in the Cumberland, MD federal prison.

In 2006, Tacopina convinced Kerik that pleading guilty in a Bronx case to accepting $165,000 in free renovations to his Riverdale apartment from a firm that sought a city contract while Kerik was Corrections Commissioner would end his legal liability.

"We got everything we wanted," Tacopina wrote in a memo to Kerik on June 20, 2006, the day of Kerik's guilty plea to two misdemeanor counts. NYPD Confidential obtained a copy of the memo.

Instead, the feds seized on Kerik's guilty plea and began sweeping through the dark corners of his life. The feds indicted him the following year on 16 counts of conspiracy and tax fraud.

The feds then disqualified Tacopina from representing Kerik, claiming they might call him as a witness against Kerik, a rare move in a criminal case.

They also got Kerik's second attorney, Kenneth Breen, disqualified, claiming he had been party to Tacopina's negotiations in Kerik's Bronx case.

In his lawsuit, Kerik claims that Tacopina met secretly with federal prosecutors, and provided information about Kerik that the feds used against him in their subsequent prosecution. That is a stunning revelation. If true, it raises questions about Tacopina and about the feds.

Their meeting, Kerik claims, occurred as the feds were investigating an alleged fee-splitting case involving Tacopina and attorney Ron Fischetti.

Neither Tacopina not Fischetti, who is a well-regarded criminal attorney, was indicted.

Tacopina denies Kerik's allegations, and has countersued for defamation, seeking $5 million.

Tacopina also sued the Daily News, which reported on Kerik's allegations in December while Tacopina was representing Rodriguez, claiming the newspaper and Kerik conspired against him.

Tacopina told the News that he met with Kerik's prosecutors, but said the meetings were not about Kerik but about finncial record the feds had subpoenaed.

But in a Dec. 12, 2007 affidavit seeking Breen's removal — and provided to NYPD Confidential — Assistant U.S. Attorney Elliott B. Jacobson, who prosecuted Kerik, appeared to contradict Tacopina.

In the affidavit, Jacobson said he and Tacopina discussed "conversations with past and present Assistant Disttrict Attorneys in the Bronx County District Attorney's office."

Tacopina, Jacobson stated, had told representatives of the Bronx District Attorney's office that Kerik "had paid for all of the renovations to the Riverdale apartment himself and that the total amount of the renovations he had paid for was approximately $50,000.

"After [Kerik] pleaded guilty in the Bronx case and during the pendency of this Office's investigation," Jacobson continued, "we questioned Mr. Tacopina concerning the statements made above.

"The questioning took place in the presence of Tacopina's attorney, Michael Ross, who is one of New York State's leading legal ethicists and experts on the law of privilege, including the attorney-client and work-product privileges.

"Tacopina confirmed he had made the above statement to the Bronx County District Attorney's Office. Tacopina also stated that the information he had conveyed had been provided by the defendant."

Neither Tacopina not Fischetti returned calls or emails seeking comment.

Every time Mayor Bill de Blasio says or does something involving the NYPD, he seems to trip over himself.

First, there was his ill-considered telephone call to a deputy chief to check on the arrest status of campaign supporter Bishop Orlando Findlayter.

Then, after a speech detailed his citywide initiative to curb traffic fatalities, his motorcade was caught blowing through a couple of stop signs.

Last week, the mayor pointed to statistics showing that, since taking office 10 weeks ago, the number of murders had fallen 21 percent and shootings had dropped 14 percent compared with the same period a year ago.

The reason for the declines, he said: the de Blasio approach to policing.

However, you can't conclude anything with certainty on a scant 10 weeks of data.

"The usual rule in social science is you need to have at least one year's data to draw any conclusions," says the NYPD's unofficial historian, Thomas Reppetto. "You can't just go from month to month because things will change and the good narrative will be used against you as a bad narrative."

Moreover, those 10 weeks occurred during one of the city's bitterest winters. That's when crime drops. Criminals, like everyone else, don't like to go out in the cold.

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