Overzealous federal prosecutors. A public figure who allegedly got home renovations as a gift. A massive federal investigation. A slew of charges. The target appears guilty, but a careful review of the evidence suggests otherwise.
|9/11 aftermath New York City Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik is joined by Mayor Rudy Giuliani and President George W. Bush at ground zero.
This sounds like the case of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, but it isn’t.
It is the ongoing legal saga of Bernard B. Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner and one-time Homeland Security secretary nominee.
Stevens was the sitting Alaska senator whose 2007 federal conviction for not reporting renovations to his home properly was overturned. In April 2009 a federal judge voided the verdict and ordered a criminal probe of six prosecutors involved in the case.
“In 25 years on the bench, I’ve never seen anything approaching the mishandling and misconduct that I’ve seen in this case,” U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said.
The Stevens case has become emblematic of the length federal prosecutors will go to convict their target — even if key evidence suggests innocence.
Federal Judge Stephen Robinson, who is overseeing the government’s case against Kerik, chided prosecutors for rummaging through his entire life to find some crime.
“It seems to me that it could fairly be said [that the complaint] is looking at the life of Mr. Kerik, and throwing everything at him,” Robinson said at a court proceeding earlier this year.
Kerik’s attorney, Barry H. Berke, also lambastes the government tactics in this case, especially the recent third indictment in a new jurisdiction, Washington, D.C.
“This is the third separate prosecution against him arising out of the same purported corruption allegations from 10 years ago — it is the latest example of the Department of Justice’s overzealous pursuit of high-profile public figures,” Berke explains in his offices at the prestigious New York firm of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP. “The Justice Department’s own rules mandate that ‛the government bring as few charges as are necessary to ensure that justice is done,’” he adds.
Despite his legal woes, Kerik is still known as “America’s Top Cop” — New York’s police commissioner during the harrowing events of Sept. 11.
Along with his then-boss, “America’s Mayor” Rudy Giuliani, Kerik was catapulted to national hero status. For Kerik, the adulation has come at a price.
His misfortunes have served as a reverse barometer of Giuliani’s political success. As Giuliani became a celebrated presidential contender, Kerik became a convenient surrogate punching bag for the former mayor’s political enemies.
Today, Bernard Kerik is fighting for his innocence with a criminal guillotine hanging over his head. Cut off from most of his business and media access, his income has withered.
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