February 18, 2010 / 7:50 PM / 8 years ago

Former NY police commissioner sentenced to prison

<p>Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik speaks to the media after leaving U.S. District Courthouse in White Plains, New York, November 9, 2007, after he was indicted on federal tax fraud and corruption charges related to his personal finance and business dealings.Mike Segar</p>

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, once selected to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, was sentenced on Thursday to four years in prison for tax evasion and lying to White House officials.

Kerik, 54, who as head of the city's police worked closely with former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani at the time of the September 11, 2001 attacks, pleaded guilty to the federal charges in November.

"I know I must be punished. Please allow me to return to my wife and two little girls as soon as possible to start a new path," Kerik said during sentencing, according to local media.

A former police detective, and once Giuliani's driver, Kerik headed the New York City jail system before taking charge of the police department in 2000.

His career began to unravel during background checks when President George W. Bush nominated him in 2004 to become Secretary of Homeland Security.

Kerik withdrew, but his legal troubles later embarrassed Giuliani in his unsuccessful bid for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.

Along with pleading guilty to lying and evading taxes, Kerik admitted receiving apartment renovations from a construction firm suspected of organized crime ties and helping the company win city contracts.

"It is a very sad day when the former commissioner of the greatest police department in the world is sentenced to prison for base criminal conduct," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.

"Today's sentencing of Bernard Kerik is one of the most powerful recent reminders that no one in this country is above the law."

The four-year sentence imposed by Judge Stephen Robinson in U.S. District Court in White Plains, New York exceeded the sentencing guidelines of less than three years, as laid out in Kerik's plea deal, but fell far short of the maximum possible term of 61 years.

Kerik will remain out on bail, under house arrest and wearing an electronic ankle monitor, until he begins his term on May 17.

Reporting by Basil Katz; Editing by Alan Elsner and Ellen Wulfhorst

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