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Ex-NYC top cop allowed out of jail for holidays

Bernard Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner and one-time candidate for Homeland Security chief, is freed from jail for the holidays to await sentencing on federal crimes.
Kerik Investigation
Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, center, leaves court after making bail Tuesday in White Plains, N.Y. David Goldman / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Bernard Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner and one-time candidate for Homeland Security chief, was freed from jail Tuesday for the holidays to await sentencing on federal crimes.

Kerik, who pleaded guilty last week to eight felonies, was released on $1.5 million bond by federal Judge Stephen Robinson after the former top cop spent three weeks in jail.

He is expected to receive a prison term of about 2 1/2 years at his sentencing in February for crimes that include lying to the White House when he was being considered for the federal security post.

Before releasing Kerik, the judge warned him that by leaving prison for three months, he was just postponing the inevitable.

"It's a mortal lock that there will be jail time at the end of this," Robinson said.

Before the court session, Kerik, 54, chatted breezily with his lawyers. His wife, Hala Matli, was in the gallery. Afterward, he strode down the steps of the federal courthouse, looking straight ahead and ignoring questions from news reporters. He got into a waiting Ford Suburban and left for his $2.5 million home in Franklin Lakes, N.J.

During the three months, Kerik is to remain at home and wear an electronic monitoring device. He will be allowed to visit his lawyers, his church, and a hospital emergency room, if necessary. He will be permitted to meet with accountants who are repairing Kerik's fraudulent tax returns. But the judge refused Kerik's request to let him walk his children to school.

"This is not home confinement with morning strolls and afternoon strolls," Robinson said.

In addition, Kerik must surrender his New York Police Department identification card and any weapons he owns.

Kerik was police commissioner when New York and Washington, D.C., were attacked by terrorists in 2001. He was praised worldwide for his leadership, and at the urging of his mentor, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, he was nominated to the top Homeland Security post in 2004.

He has admitted that while being vetted for that position, he falsely denied that he had any financial dealings with anyone doing business with New York City and that he had specifically refused payments that were offered. In actuality, he had accepted renovations of his Bronx apartment from a company seeking city work.

His release from jail Tuesday came two years and one day after his arraignment on the federal charges. The charges eventually were divided into corruption allegations, tax crimes and lying to the White House, the Internal Revenue Service and others. Had he not pleaded guilty, he would have had three trials, two in White Plains and one in Washington.

Kerik was jailed three weeks ago after the judge suspected him of tainting the jury pool for his corruption trial in sharing information with a supporter. Robinson said Tuesday that because there was no longer any prospect of a trial, there was no need to keep Kerik behind bars.

Prosecutors say Kerik's appropriate sentence would be 27 months to 33 months in prison, but Robinson is not bound by their advice. He warned Kerik last week that the maximum sentence is 61 years. Kerik could also be fined.

The judge said he would consider Kerik's accomplishments when he sentences him.