NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. federal judge on Thursday removed the lawyer for Bernard Kerik, a former New York police commissioner and protege of Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani who faces federal corruption charges.
The ruling stands to postpone the start of Kerik’s trial, which could help Guiliani if the potentially negative publicity of a trial is delayed past the upcoming nominating contests. Kerik has 30 days to find a new attorney.
The next pre-trial hearing is scheduled for February 6, the day after “Super Tuesday” when more than 20 states will hold primary elections or caucuses. No trial date has been set.
“Mr. Kerik is disappointed with the decision and is currently reviewing all of his options,” the lawyer, Kenneth Breen, told reporters.
Breen would not comment on how long the development might delay Kerik’s trial.
In a 16-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Stephen Robinson wrote there was an “actual conflict of interest” in Breen’s representation of Kerik because Breen could be called as a witness.
Prosecutors allege Kerik used two of his lawyers, including Breen, to convey false statements to prosecutors about the sources of money that paid for renovations of his home, a matter under investigation.
Kerik later pleaded guilty to state charges of accepting $165,000 in apartment renovations from a construction company that was attempting to land city contracts and which authorities were investigating for links to organized crime.
It is unlikely that Kerik will appeal the ruling since disqualification orders are generally accepted as final, said Columbia University law professor Daniel Richman.
In November, Kerik pleaded innocent to charges of lying to investigators looking into his personal finances and business dealings and to hiding more than $500,000 in income, much of it allegedly in gifts from firms trying to do business with the city.
Kerik, 52, served as police commissioner under Giuliani, the former New York mayor, in 2000 and 2001 and stood by Giuliani’s side after the September 11 attacks. The two became business partners after Giuliani left office.
With Giuliani’s backing, Kerik was nominated by President George W. Bush in 2004 to be secretary of Homeland Security. The charges include allegations that he lied to investigators doing a background check for the cabinet post.
Kerik later withdrew from consideration after admitting he failed to pay taxes on a nanny and other embarrassing disclosures about his personal life surfaced.
Editing by Daniel Trotta and John O'Callaghan