Former police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, whose rise from beat cop to nominee for Homeland Security head was derailed by ethics questions, dodged prison Friday in a plea bargain by admitting he took $165,000 in gifts from a company attempting to do business with the city.
Kerik, at a 10-minute hearing in state Supreme Court in the Bronx, pleaded guilty to a pair of misdemeanors under a deal that allows him to continue without interruption his new career as a security consultant in the Middle East.
Kerik acknowledged accepting $165,000 in renovations on his Bronx apartment from a company attempting to land city contracts — Interstate Industrial Corp., a business reputedly linked to organized crime. And he admitted failing to report a $28,000 loan from a real estate developer as required by city law.
The transgressions occurred while Kerik was head of the city Correction Department.
‘A tremendous burden’
In entering his plea, Kerik admitted speaking to city officials about Interstate, but never acknowledged a link between the renovations and his support of the company. Outside court, Kerik showed no sign of remorse and offered no apology.
“The last year and a half has been a tremendous burden,” said Kerik, who must pay $221,000 in fines. “But today it’s over. Now I can get on with my business.”
City officials defended the deal with Kerik, saying he received the same treatment as any other defendant.
“He was arrested and booked, plain and simple,” said Rose Gill Hearn, commissioner of the Department of Investigation. “He was fingerprinted and photographed, just like every other perp who gets arrested and processed, by the agency he used to lead.”
Kerik’s close friend and former business partner, ex-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, said the guilty pleas do not diminish the former police commissioner’s accomplishments.
“Bernard Kerik has acknowledged his violations, but this should be evaluated in light of his service to the United States of America and the City of New York,” Giuliani said in a statement. Giuliani has said he was unaware of the Interstate links when he selected Kerik as police commissioner in 2000.
Tapped for Homeland Security job
Kerik first drew national attention while leading the police department’s response to the Sept. 11 terror attacks. By late 2004, President Bush wanted him for homeland security chief, but he withdrew after acknowledging he had not paid all taxes for a family nanny-housekeeper and that the woman may have been in the country illegally.
More problems surfaced last year when the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement filed court papers seeking to revoke Interstate Industrial’s license to work on casinos in Atlantic City. The papers cited testimony by mob turncoats that owners Frank and Peter DiTommaso were associates of the Gambino organized crime family.
The civil complaint also detailed Kerik’s cozy relationship with an Interstate official. In 1999, he sent a series of e-mails to the official that “indicated his lack of sufficient funds to both purchase and renovate his new Bronx apartment” and “indicated he would provide information to Frank DiTommaso regarding New York City contracts,” the papers said.
In recent months, a grand jury has heard conflicting testimony from the DiTommaso brothers — who denied paying for the renovations — and from a contractor who said they picked up most of the tab.