Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Former New York Corrections Commissioner Receives Four-Year Prison Sentence

by Matt Clarke

On February 18, 2010, a New York federal judge sentenced Bernard “Bernie” Kerik, 54, to four years in federal prison after Kerik pleaded guilty to five counts of making false statements to federal agents, two counts of tax fraud and one count of making a false statement on a loan application.

The centerpiece of the case against Kerik was a charge that he accepted $255,000 in renovations on his house in the up-scale Bronx neighborhood of Riverdale from New Jersey-based Interstate Industrial Corporation, a company suspected of having ties to organized crime. The renovations included marble bathrooms and a Jacuzzi, and company officials allegedly hoped Kerik would help them get a city license. Kerik was asked about the then-surfacing bribery allegations while being vetted for the position of Secretary of Homeland Security, but lied to federal agents.

In regard to the tax fraud charges, he acknowledged hiding profits from his autobiography, “The Lost Son: A Life in Pursuit of Justice,” from the IRS. The title of the book reflects the murder of Kerik’s mother, a prostitute.

Kerik began his career as an officer in the New York Police Department. He rose to the rank of detective and eventually became the driver and bodyguard for former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani gave Kerik a senior post in the city’s Corrections Department, and he eventually became New York’s Commissioner of Corrections. Kerik later served as the city’s Police Commissioner from 1998 until 2002.

Kerik’s handling of the 9/11 attacks in New York City garnered him national attention. In 2003, the Bush administration sent him to Iraq to train that country’s police force. The following year, President Bush nominated him to be Secretary of Homeland Security; however, the nomination fell apart and Kerik withdrew his name after allegations surfaced that he had employed a nanny who was in the U.S. illegally.

In 2006, Kerik pleaded guilty to bribery charges in connection with tens of thousands of dollars worth of gifts he had accepted while Commissioner of Corrections. [See: PLN, March 2007, p.30; May 2006, p.6]. He paid $221,000 in fines in that case and avoided serving time.

Kerik entered into a plea bargain in his most recent false statement and tax fraud case, and prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence between 27 and 33 months. U.S. District Court Judge Stephen C. Robinson ignored the recommendation and sentenced Kerik to 48 months in federal prison.

“I think it’s fair to say that with great power comes great responsibility and great consequences,” said Judge Robin-son. “I think the damage caused by Mr. Kerik is in some ways immeasurable.” Robinson also condemned Kerik for using the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks for “personal gain and aggrandizement.”

After being sentenced, Kerik made the following statement: “I’d like to apologize to the American people for the mistakes I’ve made and for which I have just accepted responsibility. As history is written, I can only hope that I will be judged for the 30 years of service I have given to this country and the city of New York.”

Many other prisoners would share Kerik’s sentiment. We would all like history to remember the good things we have done, at least along with the bad. Alas, that is not how it works in America, where forgiveness and second chances are given lip service while people are remembered for their most ignoble acts – even long after they have paid their debt to society.

Sources:, New York Times, New York Daily News

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login