Ex-Partner Of Giuliani May Face Charges
Saturday, March 31, 2007
Federal prosecutors have told Bernard B. Kerik, whose nomination as homeland security secretary in 2004 ended in scandal, that he is likely to be charged with several felonies, including tax evasion and conspiracy to commit wiretapping.
Kerik's indictment could set the stage for a courtroom battle that would draw attention to Kerik's extensive business and political dealings with former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who personally recommended him to President Bush for the Cabinet. Giuliani, the front-runner for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination according to most polls, later called the recommendation a mistake.
Kerik rose from being a warden and police detective to become Giuliani's campaign security adviser, corrections chief, police commissioner and eventual partner in Giuliani-Kerik, a security arm of Giuliani Partners, which Giuliani established after leaving office in 2001. Kerik resigned his positions in Giuliani's firm after he was nominated to the homeland security job.
The former mayor is not in any legal jeopardy, according to legal sources directly familiar with the investigation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the inquiry is ongoing. He and his consulting firm have cooperated in the FBI's long-running investigation of Kerik.
During a recent meeting, federal prosecutors told Kerik's attorneys that they are preparing to charge Kerik with filing false information to the government when Bush nominated him to the Cabinet, according to the legal sources.
Prosecutors are also prepared to charge Kerik with violating federal tax laws, alleging that he did not declare on his tax returns gifts he received while serving as New York's corrections commissioner, including costly renovations to an apartment he had bought, the sources said. The FBI is investigating loans Kerik received while he was in private business with Giuliani, the sources said, as well as information Kerik had omitted from a mortgage application.
Kerik turned down last month an offer to plead guilty to federal charges that would have required him to serve prison time. His attorney, Kenneth Breen, said in an interview that his client had done nothing wrong.
"He's not going to plead to something that he didn't do," Breen said.
The case against Kerik that federal prosecutors are preparing could generate uncomfortable political attention for Giuliani because it focuses on Kerik's activities while the two men were in government together and were jointly running Giuliani-Kerik, which was paid millions of dollars for advising upstart companies, doing federal work and consulting with clients overseas.
Even as Giuliani prepared to announce his presidential bid, his political team had identified as a political liability the man who had stood stoically by the mayor's side after the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center, according to a strategy memo that surfaced in January.
Kerik's legal troubles could damage the law-and-order image that is the bedrock of Giuliani's campaign, said Republican political consultant Nelson Warfield, who is not aligned with any 2008 candidate. "Kerik has potential to undermine his image as a competent leader and someone best fit to fight terrorism," Warfield said. "Either he had fundamentally bad information about Kerik, or he was reckless in not knowing enough about a man who was that close to him."
Last night, Giuliani's office declined to comment on Kerik, instead referring a reporter to remarks the former mayor made earlier this week in Teaneck, N.J. "I hope, when people evaluate me, they evaluate the things that I think I did that were wrong and that were mistakes and the things that I did that were right, and I think the public record has been one largely of great success," Giuliani said then.