by Gary Hunter
Given the controversy and corruption that currently surrounds virtually every aspect of the New York City penal process, its insightful to reflect on how one former New York top cop fared when his own affairs were placed under scrutiny. Alas, such scrutiny did not occur until after he had left government office.
Bernard B. Kerik, more affectionately known as Bernie, served as both New York City corrections commissioner and police chief under former Mayor Rudy Benito Giuliani. In December 2004, President Bush picked Kerik to head the Department of Homeland Security. If appointed, Keriks duties would have made him head of immigration services; however, his housekeeper/nanny turned out to be an illegal alien, and Bernie had neglected to pay taxes on her behalf. Once this became known his nomination was withdrawn within a week.
One White House official called it Keriks screw up, it was that simple. But simple implies there were no other complications, no baggage. And Bernie had plenty of baggage and what was yet to be disclosed soon became woven into a far more scandalous personal and professional history.
That Kerik is a ladies man was no secret. The former commissioner admitted under oath to having an affair with jail guard Jeannette Pinero, and is accused of simultaneously having an affair with his publisher, Judith Regan. These affairs would have overlapped with his current marriage to Hala Kerik, which took place in 1998.
An apartment that had been donated as a rest area for police and fire fighters working on ground zero, the site of the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, was instead appropriated by Kerik for his personal use. Namely trysts with his lovers.
As if furtive romances werent enough, allegations arose that city police officers received overtime pay as they remained on the clock to work at Keriks most recent wedding (his third). Another report suggested that, during his terms as corrections chief and police commissioner, Kerik received gifts from Interstate Industrial Corp., a company alleged to have connections to organized crime. Keriks former friend, Larry Ray, who was hired by Interstate (and later indicted on securities fraud), claimed to have emails from Kerik promising the company inside information.
Kerik also was scrutinized for a $6.2 million stock sale windfall he made in 2004 as an associate on the board of stun-gun manufacturer Taser International, a company that sells various products to the Homeland Security Department.
Additionally, Kerik may have cooked the books with respect to prison security while he was head of New Yorks Corrections Department. Kerik boasted a reduction in use of force incidents in the prisons from 490 to 118 between 1997 and 1999. But records show that reported minor incidents increased from 783 to 1,509 over the same period, suggesting that such incidents may have simply been down-played to reflect more favorably on the department. Prisoner injuries increased overall from 1,556 to 1,935.
Kerik was further accused of paying $4.8 million for 11,000 stab-resistant vests for prison guards that were no better than a cheaper model already on the market. He allegedly ordered guards to strip-search suspects arrested for misdemeanor charges in direct violation of a federal court order. Which resulted in a $50 million settlement to the victims, the biggest in New York City history.
Kerik was also implicated in the transfer of $800,000 in tobacco rebate funds to the Correction Foundation, a group that he directed. The funds were from cigarettes that had been purchased by the city and sold to prisoners at Rikers Island at higher prices. At least $142,000 was skimmed from the Correction Foundation by its treasurer, Frederick Patrick, who had been personally selected by Kerik. Patrick, who used the stolen funds to pay for collect phone-sex calls by prisoners, and would listen in to the pornographic Calls, subsequently received a one-year sentence for the theft. Before his arrest, Patrick had held numerous high ranking positions at both Rikers Island and within the New York Police Department.
Not a tolerant sort, Kerik reportedly threatened to hunt down people who werent loyal to him. He refused five times to promote a corrections supervisor, Eric DeRavin, because DeRavin had previously taken disciplinary action against one of Keriks girlfriends, Jeanette Pinero. DeRavin filed suit against Kerik and the city, and eventually received a $250,000 settlement.
Keriks tenure at the New York Police Department also was not without controversy. While he served as Police Commissioner, two dozen Glock handguns purchased with city funds were given, at no charge, to top police officials. He had special medals of valor produced for friends and government officials whose only act of valor appears to have been being one of his cronies. Kerik further used private funds from the Police Foundation to make up to 30 plaster busts of himself, which he distributed as gifts.
After leaving the police department in 2002, Kerik worked as a security consultant for Giuliani Partners, a company formed by former Mayor Giuliani, and as CEO of Giuliani-Kerik LLC, an affiliate of Giuliani Partners. For a short period in 2003 he held the post of interim Minister of the Interior in Iraq shortly after the US invasion of Iraq. He is presently the head of The Kerik Group, which provides Homeland Security and business security services; despite his checkered past and allegations of misconduct, he was the keynote speaker at the American Correctional Associations Winter 2005 conference.
Keriks past misdeeds continue to make life difficult for his friends and associates. In April 2006, New York Corrections Dept. spokesman Tom Antenen was demoted after federal wiretaps revealed that he and Kerik had spoken on the phone. Antenen had been interviewed by the Department of Investigation, which was checking into whether Kerik had given preferential treatment to his ex-girlfriend, Jeannette Pinero. Antenen had been ordered not to discuss matters raised in the interview, but mentioned Pinero in his conversation with Kerik.
Most recently, on May 4, 2006, the New York Post reported that the city had taken action against a construction company central to a grand jury investigation involving Kerik. New York officials denied permits for Interstate Industrial Corp. to work within the city following a ruling by the Business Integrity Commission. The Commission found that the owners of Interstate lacked character, honesty and integrity, and had bought the company from Salvatore Sammy Bull Gravanos brother-in-law, Edward Garofola, and Michael Mickey Scars DiLeonardo, who have connections to the Gambino crime family.
Previously, in November 2005, New Jerseys Division of Gaming Enforcement found that Kerik had engaged in misconduct relating to his dealings with Interstate. It was during the New Jersey investigation that Kerik invoked the Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination at least nine times. He refused to answer a number of questions, including whether he received anything of value from Interstate or if he was asked to do anything on behalf of the company.
A New York grand jury is presently investigating whether Interstate paid for almost $200,000 worth of renovations to Keriks apartment in the Bronx, and if the firm hired Keriks brother, Donald, in exchange for Keriks assistance with influencing city officials. Indictments are reportedly pending.
Meanwhile, in 2001, New Yorks Manhattan Detention Complex, commonly known as The Tombs, was christened the Bernard B. Kerik Complex. Which may be a fitting tribute to Kerik & especially if he ends up doing time there himself. However, it is worth noting that while he was actually running the Citys jail system he succeeded in keeping this information under wraps and for now at least, continues to do very well for himself.
Sources: New York Post, NY1.com, New York Times
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