WHITE PLAINS, New York (Reuters) - Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik pleaded guilty on Thursday to lying to White House officials and tax evasion charges in a deal that could send him to prison for almost three years.
Kerik, who as head of the police department stood beside former Mayor Rudy Giuliani at the time of the September 11, 2001, attacks, also admitted receiving apartment renovations from a construction firm suspected of organized crime ties and that he helped the company win city contracts.
Once considered a star in law enforcement and national security, Kerik saw his career unravel when President George W. Bush nominated him in 2004 for U.S. Homeland Security secretary. Checks into his background led to the criminal charges.
Stocky, with a shaved head, Kerik, 54, looked somber in federal court in White Plains, New York, where he pleaded guilty to eight charges in the deal.
His corruption trial had been due to start next week, and he faced up to 30 years in prison on the most serious charge.
Now he is likely to receive 27 to 33 months in prison under the plea deal. Formal sentencing is set for February 8, 2010.
Judge Stephen Robinson, at the hearing, called Kerik “not a one-dimensional character” and said he would take his achievements into consideration at sentencing.
Kerik wiped away tears as the judge spoke.
“I think this is a very sad day,” Robinson said. “But I think you have had a full life.”
Kerik, a former detective, was once Giuliani’s driver, later became head of the city’s jails and in 2000 and 2001 headed the largest police department in the United States.
When Kerik was nominated to become Homeland Security secretary, disclosures about his failure to pay taxes for a nanny undermined his consideration for the job and he withdrew from consideration.
Kerik pleaded guilty to charges of tax evasion, lying on a bank loan application and lying to the federal government, including lying to White House officials about his association with anyone doing business with the city of New York.
“I falsely denied to the White House official that I had any such dealings,” Kerik told the judge.
Kerik and Giuliani were good friends who became business partners after they left office at the conclusion of Giuliani’s stint as mayor. Kerik has since left the partnership.
Kerik could become a campaign issue next year if Giuliani decides to run for governor of New York.
He has been in prison since last month, during which time he checked himself into the psychiatric unit for several days.
Reporting by Christine Kearney; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Eric Walsh