Former NYC top cop pleads not guilty to lying

Image: Bernard Kerik
Bernard Kerik is accused of denying to White House aides that he had financial dealings with contractors seeking to do business with the city.Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of lying to the White House, a case he described online as "unprecedented, selective, and overreaching."

Kerik is charged with two counts of making a false statement to aides of President George W. Bush in late 2004, after the president had picked Kerik to run the Homeland Security Department established in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Kerik is accused of denying to Bush aides that he had financial dealings with contractors seeking to do business with the city. But prosecutors say contractors spent more than $255,000 renovating his apartment in 1999 and 2000 while he was New York's corrections commissioner.

He's facing charges relating to the case in New York state court and federal courts in Washington and New York. The false statement charges were originally brought as part of the larger federal case in New York but were dismissed and transferred to Washington, where prosecutors say the crimes occurred.

Kerik updated his online Twitter account, featuring a photo of him in front of an American flag, on Thursday morning via text message before entering his plea to the most recent indictment.

"In DC Federal Court today," he wrote. "Indicted for a third time on the same charge. Unprecedented, selective, and overreaching prosecution? You tell me."

'Same old allegations'
Kerik appeared before U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer, who agreed to postpone the case until next year after Kerik is scheduled to go on trial in New York. She asked Kerik if he understood that he was entitled to a speedy trial and whether he was willing to waive that right, and he agreed.

Kerik's attorney, Barry Berke, told reporters outside the courthouse that "Mr. Kerik is very much looking forward to the opportunity to contest these charges and be vindicated."

"They are based on the same old allegations from 10 years ago," Berke said, as Kerik and another of his lawyers stood silently behind him. Kerik declined to comment, then the trio loaded into a waiting van surrounded by news photographers, while onlookers riding on a passing open-air tour bus took photos of the scene.

Kerik's legal woes came after a swift rise in New York City politics.

Tax, corruption charges
He went from being Rudy Giuliani's driver during Giuliani's 1993 mayoral campaign to heading the city's corrections department and being commissioner of police, a position he held on Sept. 11, 2001. He earned a national reputation for his work leading the response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, which nearly carried him into one of the nation's top law enforcement jobs.

He withdrew in December 2004 as Bush's nominee to be Homeland Security secretary, saying he'd discovered he hired an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper and nanny and had failed to pay the required employment taxes and make related filings on the worker's behalf.

Kerik faces two trials in White Plains, N.Y., on separate tax and corruption charges. Attorneys for both sides in the case told Collyer that they expect the first trial will go on in October.

The corruption trial will center on allegations that Kerik accepted the apartment renovations from a construction company in exchange for recommending the company for city contracts. The tax counts include allegations of failing to declare income and filing false returns.

Kerik pleaded guilty in a Bronx court in 2006 to a misdemeanor, admitting that the renovations constituted an illegal gift from the construction firm. His plea spared him any jail time, but federal authorities later brought the current case.

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