Video: NYC's former top cop pleads guilty to lying

msnbc.com news services
updated 11/5/2009 2:09:45 PM ET 2009-11-05T19:09:45

Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik pleaded guilty Thursday to lying to the White House and tax crimes in a deal that could send him to prison for about 2 1/2 years.

Kerik, who was police commissioner when New York was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, won glowing reviews for his leadership. He eventually was nominated for the Homeland Security post in 2004 but withdrew as corruption allegations mounted. The lies to the White House occurred during that vetting process.

"Guilty," he said eight times in a firm voice as he appeared in the suburban courtroom.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara issued a statement calling Thursday "a sad day," but added, "No one is above the law."

The plea agreement included the prosecution's suggestion that the crimes are punishable by 27 to 33 months in prison. It was designed to resolve three pending federal criminal trials. The first had been scheduled to start Monday.

Kerik breaks down
Judge Stephen Robinson warned Kerik, 54, that the maximum sentence for the counts to which he was pleading was 61 years in prison; the judge said he was not bound by the terms of the plea agreement.

Kerik broke down in tears when the judge hinted at his past accomplishments, saying that they would be a factor in his sentencing set for Feb. 18, according to NBC News.

"It's a sad day for you," the judge said. "You've lived a full life and I should be able to take into account that full life."

Kerik said he understood and told the judge he was giving up his right to appeal. He also agreed to pay about $188,000 in restitution.

Kerik denied to the White House that he'd had any financial dealings with firms trying to do business with the city. The tax charges included hiding income from his returns.

In the agreement, he promised to file amended tax returns for 1999 through 2003, and 2005.

Kerik remains in custody, but his lawyer, Michael Bachner, said he would ask to change the bail conditions. The judge said he would consider that seriously.

Case hits Giuliani
The case was an embarrassment to Kerik's mentor, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was running for president when Kerik was charged. Giuliani, a Republican, had named Kerik police commissioner, had gone into private business with him and had pushed President George W. Bush to nominate him to run the Department of Homeland Security.

Bush nominated Kerik in December 2004. Kerik withdrew his name a week later, citing immigration and tax issues over a former nanny.

The Associated Press and NBC News contributed to this report.

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