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Ex-NYC police commissioner pleads not guilty

Bernard Kerik, the former New York police commissioner under then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani , surrendered Friday for arraignment on federal corruption charges.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik pleaded not guilty Friday to federal corruption charges.

Kerik, the police commissioner under then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a failed nominee for homeland security secretary, was indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday on 16 counts including conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and lying to the IRS. Authorities say that over a six-year period, from 1999 through 2004, Kerik failed to report more than $500,000 in income.

He surrendered earlier Friday to the FBI in suburban White Plains, where he was fingerprinted and processed before his court appearance.

Kerik's case could prove to be an ongoing embarrassment for Giuliani, a Republican presidential candidate.

During a presidential campaign stop Thursday in Dubuque, Iowa, Giuliani was asked whether he still stood by Kerik. He sidestepped that question and said the issue had to be decided by the courts.

"A lot of public comment about it is inconsistent with its getting resolved in the right way in the courts," Giuliani said.

The ex-mayor frequently says that he made a mistake in recommending Kerik to be Homeland Security chief, but that might not be enough to avoid the political damage of a drawn-out criminal case involving his one-time protege.

A former undercover police officer with a bodybuilder's physique and a knack for charming people in high places, Kerik has been hit with a string of revelations about personal and professional improprieties.

His nomination was confronted with news reports about stock-option windfalls, his connections with people suspected of doing business with the mob and overlapping extramarital affairs with two women: Judith Regan, the publisher of his memoir, and a city correction officer. The liaisons reportedly occurred in an apartment near ground zero that had been set aside for rescue workers.

Kerik, 51, who married his current wife in 1998 and has two children with her, apparently became close with Regan while writing "The Lost Son," in which he described being abandoned by his prostitute mother.

Meteoric rise
Kerik rose from cop to Giuliani's correction commissioner in the late 1990s. From there, he became police commissioner and later went to work in Iraq rebuilding the country's police force.

Then came the failed Homeland Security nomination. Democrats who opposed the nomination focused on Kerik's recent windfall from exercising stock options in a stun-gun company that did business with the department. His take: $6.2 million.

Days after Bush introduced Kerik as his nominee, Kerik announced he was withdrawing his name because of tax issues involving his former nanny. But by then, state investigators were already aware of the expensive renovations done to his Bronx apartment in 1999, including built-in cabinets and a rotunda with a marble entryway. They alleged the work was paid for by Mafia-connected builders who sought his help winning city contracts.

Giuliani was forced to testify before a state grand jury in a case that resulted in Kerik pleading guilty last year to accepting illegal gifts while on the city payroll. The plea spared Kerik jail time and preserved his new career as a security consultant, but his name was quietly removed from a downtown jail named in his honor.

The state case is not over: Two brothers who run the construction firm have pleaded not guilty to charges they lied to the grand jury about their relationship with Kerik.

In the past 18 months, a federal grand jury took up the tax case, quizzing another parade of witnesses. They included a commercial real estate developer who picked up the $9,000-a-month tab for a luxury Upper East Side apartment that Kerik lived in around the time he left the police department in 2001.

The federal case also involved allegations that former Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro tried to recruit Kerik to eavesdrop on her husband, whom she suspected of having an affair, in 2005. But authorities have indicated that no charges would arise from the encounter.

Earlier this year, Kerik had committed to work as a national security adviser in Guyana and Trinidad, but had to pull out. The president of Guyana said he did not want either country "tainted" by the corruption allegations in the United States.