By John Solomon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Federal prosecutors are planning to unveil an indictment against former New York City police commissioner Bernard B. Kerik as early as week's end, spotlighting alleged corruption that occurred a decade ago when he worked was a trusted adviser to former New York mayor -- and now presidential candidate -- Rudolph W. Giuliani, according to people familiar with the case.
Kerik, 51, rejected a plea bargain earlier this year and was informed by prosecutors that he was likely to be indicted on charges that could include tax evasion or tax fraud, public corruption and filing false information regarding his failed 2004 nomination to be President Bush's homeland security chief.
Since plea discussions ended, Kerik's defense team has launched an aggressive effort to persuade prosecutors not to bring the case, including recent meetings with the Justice Department's tax division aimed at heading off any tax-evasion or tax-fraud charges. Prosecutors have a mid-November deadline for filing charges; that date was set under an agreement between Kerik and prosecutors to extend the statute of limitations on the tax charges to enable Kerik to challenge those charges.
Kerik's attorney, Kenneth Breen, said yesterday he has not been notified of the outcome of the recent meetings or any specific action planned for this week. "Prosecutors have not told me whether or when they will seek charges," Breen said, promising to fight any charges vigorously.
Three people familiar with the case said prosecutors plan to present charges to a grand jury as early as today and that an indictment, if handed up, could be unsealed as early as Friday in federal court in Westchester County, New York, where Kerik would be arraigned.
The sources cautioned, however, that the timing could shift with last-minute developments, such as a request by grand jurors for more information or an agreement by Kerik's team to voluntarily extend the statute of limitations.
The federal investigation has focused on gifts that Kerik is alleged to have accepted while New York City's corrections chief and police commissioner, including $165,000 in apartment renovations in 1999 from a New Jersey construction company that sought his help overcoming allegations of ties to organized crime so it could compete for business from Giuliani's mayoral administration.
Last year, Kerik pleaded guilty to a New York state ethics charge in connection with those gifts and was placed on probation. Federal authorities pursued their own, broader investigation that also examined Kerik's conduct during his vetting to be the homeland security nominee.
That nomination was quickly pulled in December 2004 when the corruption allegations surfaced, causing embarrassment to both Bush and Giuliani.
Federal prosecutors had previously informed Kerik's defense team that they were considering charges that he violated federal tax and corruption laws relating to the gifts and filed false information to the government when Bush nominated him to the Cabinet.
The FBI also has investigated whether Kerik played a role in a conspiracy to commit illegal wiretapping involving former New York attorney general candidate Jeanine Pirro.
Any indictment would come as Giuliani, the GOP front-runner, makes a final push to secure conservative support before the presidential primaries begin in January.
Though Giuliani was summoned as a grand jury witness during the New York state investigation, he has never faced legal jeopardy in either case.
Giuliani's advisers, however, have braced for months for the possibility that a federal indictment might be used by opponents to question his law-and-order image or his judgment in picking Kerik as his police chief or recommending him to Bush for the Cabinet job.
In an Associated Press interview Monday, Giuliani reiterated his past apologies for not better vetting Kerik's background but also suggested that Kerik's law enforcement accomplishments in New York city should not be forgotten because of his legal troubles.
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. He gained national attention working alongside Giuliani in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on New York.
Kerik resigned his positions in Giuliani's firm after he was nominated for the homeland security job.