One Police Plaza

Waiting for Bernie

October 15, 2012

Bernard Bailey Kerik is to testify in the Bronx this week at the perjury trial of his former pals, Frank and Peter DiTommaso.

Kerik is, of course, New York City’s 40th police commissioner, currently residing in a Cumberland, Maryland federal prison.

The DiTommaso brothers, who had sought Kerik’s help to obtain city contracts when he was Corrections Commissioner in 1999, denied before a Bronx grand jury investigating Kerik in 2006 that they had paid $165,000 in renovations for his Riverdale apartment.

To avoid a trial and possible jail time, Kerik then pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts, making liars of the DiTommasos by admitting that they had paid for the renovations.

The result for Peter and Frank: a slam-dunk perjury indictment.

In Bronx State Supreme Court last week, the brothers, under a gag order from Judge John Carter, were nervously polite. “Have a nice day,” they said to anyone who approached them.

Like others before them, they have learned a hard lesson: getting close to Bernie is like playing with fire.

Let’s start with Rudy Giuliani, who fell for Kerik when he served as Rudy’s driver and then, against the advice of his closest advisors, appointed him Police Commissioner in 2001.

Then there’s Judith Regan, Kerik’s girlfriend and publisher of his best-selling memoir, “The Lost Son.” Kerik promised Regan he would leave his wife for her. Regan later figured out Kerik had used her to make “The Lost Son” a best-seller.

There’s Corrections officer Jeanette Pinero, with whom Kerik was simultaneously having an affair, using the same Ground Zero apartment love nest he did with Regan.

There’s also Tom Antenen, Kerik’s friend and spokesman at the Corrections Department and the NYPD. Antenen lost his city job after disobeying an order during Kerik’s Bronx investigation to avoid contact with him. Antenen hasn’t been seen or heard from since.

And, there’s Kerik’s longtime friend and attorney, Joe Tacopina. The two were tight as ticks. After Kerik left the NYPD and set up an international consultant business, he used Tacopina’s office on Madison Avenue. Tacopina also served as his spokesman and attorney, representing him in the Bronx investigation.

Tacopina even chaperoned Kerik at the Harvard Club, where in 2003 he lectured on foreign policy to the Manhattan Institute. Having just returned from three months in Baghdad where he supposedly trained Iraqi police, he praised President Bush and the Iraq war. No doubt this helped him obtain the nomination a year later as Homeland Security Director, which led to his doom.

Then, in June 2006, came Kerik’s Bronx indictment. Supposedly Kerik lied to Tacopina — about what is not clear. But Tacopina unknowingly fed the lie to Bronx prosecutors, who passed it on to the feds.

It was then that Tacopina bailed on Bernie. Kerik maintained that Joe betrayed and abandoned him as the feds prepared their 16-count indictment against him, which included tax evasion, making false statements on a loan application, and lying to the government during his nomination as Homeland Security Director. Tacopina did not respond to an email.

Kerik pleaded guilty to eight felony charges and was sentenced to four years in federal prison.

Finally, there’s Robert Tucker, whose security firm, T and M Protection Resources, employs more ex-cops than any private company in the city. In August 2004, he loaned $30,000 to Kerik’s chief of staff, John Picciano, which Picciano never repaid.

When a year later Tucker went to Kerik for help in getting his money back, he says Kerik said to him, “Do you think you’re the only one?”

“If you hear from Pitch, remind him he still owes me the money,” said Tucker. Pitch did not respond to an email.

. That’s Bronx District Attorney Rob Johnson. Any other district attorney would have shouted to the rafters, heralding Kerik’s impending appearance in a high-profile court case his office was prosecuting.

Instead, Johnson’s office has refused even to disclose on what day Kerik might appear.

To the frustration of his staff and other supporters, Johnson rejects all attempts at publicity and self-aggrandizement.

Like President Obama at his first debate, Johnson refuses to refute criticism of himself.

Much of it comes from the NYPD.

The latest flap concerned Johnson’s recent announcement that his office would no longer prosecute people arrested by the police for trespassing inside city housing projects, based on the department’s controversial Stop-and-Frisk policy, unless prosecutors could interview the cops.

Predictably, criticism came from the New York Post and the Daily News, [which headlined an editorial, “Johnson’s folly”] and from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who tries to sound as though he knows something about policing.

Contrast Johnson’s approach to that of Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes, who is forever trumpeting indictments that are invariably dismissed.

Hynes’s most recent debacle concerns a lawsuit against his office by Darrell Dula for malicious prosecution. Dula had been jailed for ten months on a rape charge, later thrown out by a judge.

At a well-publicized news conference in June 2011, Hynes announced the indictments of Dula and three co-defendants. The judge released Dula last April after a police report surfaced, recounting the victim’s recantation of the rape.

Next, according to the New York Times, Assistant District Attorney Abbie Greenberg resigned, citing pressure from the head of Hynes’s sex-trafficking unit, Lauren Hersh, to continue the prosecution.

Hersh then resigned, amidst claims that she had failed to tell the defense about the victim’s changed account.

Eight years after his arrest in London on terrorism charges, the radical Islamic cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri appeared in federal court in Manhattan last week, hooks removed from his hands, which he had lost in an explosion, leaving only stumps.

Also in the courtroom was former NYPD detective George Corey, who played a well-publicized role in al-Masri’s arrest — publicity Corey didn’t ask for and didn't need.

Corey was part of the Joint [FBI and NYPD] Terrorist Task Force who was sent to London for al-Masri's arrest. He was to have appeared at a court hearing there until Police Commissioner Ray Kelly intervened.

At a news conference with then Attorney General John Ashcroft and U.S. Attorney David Kelley to announce the arrest, Commissioner Kelly singled out Corey for praise.

The department e-mailed copies of Kelly’s remarks and a picture of Corey to reporters in a press release that included his age, college background and the fact that he lived on Long Island.

With today’s information technology, that information made it easy to discover where he lived and what his unlisted telephone number was. Teams of reporters camped outside his house, so upsetting his wife that she contacted police headquarters.

Corey was whisked home from London.

Assistant FBI Director Pat D’Amuro, then head of the Bureau’s New York office, said that Kelly’s identification of Corey had led to “security concerns” for him and his family that prompted his recall.

Said FBI spokesman Joe Valiquette at the time: “What we didn’t find out until later was that, simultaneous with the press conference, the NYPD was e-mailing the media a text of Kelly’s remarks about Corey with an attachment picture. In 24 years of the JTTF, I can’t recall a JTTF investigator having his photo published in the midst of a prosecution.”

In a public rebuke to Kelly, D’Amuro sent an e-mail to FBI employees, including JTTF members, which this column reported. “The newspaper articles Friday credited the NYPD with ‘breaking the case,’” D’Amuro wrote. “The NYPD pro-actively and unilaterally highlighted the work of Det. George Corey….This is not the way we do business.”

He added that Corey was a “great asset” to the task force and that the media attention was orchestrated by others at risk to Corey’s family.

Last week, Corey was with the prosecution team in the courtroom. He has retired from the NYPD and is now an investigator with the U.S. Attorney’s office.

His anger at what had occurred in 2004 was still palpable, although last week in the courtroom, it was directed not at Kelly but at this reporter.

“You printed my wife’s name,” he said, then turned away.


Copyright © 2012 Leonard Levitt