Kerik pleads not guilty to lying charge

June 4, 2009 11:14:11 AM PDT
Former New York City police Commissioner Bernard Kerik pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of lying to the White House while being vetted to be Homeland Security secretary. Kerik is charged with two counts of making a false statement to aides of President George W. Bush in late 2004, after the president had picked Kerik to run the Homeland Security Department established in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Kerik, a Rudy Giuliani protege, is accused of denying to Bush aides that he had financial dealings with contractors seeking to do business with the city. But prosecutors say contractors spent more than $255,000 renovating his apartment in 1999 and 2000 while he was New York's corrections commissioner.

Kerik appeared before U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer, who agreed to postpone the case until next year after Kerik is scheduled to go on trial on related charges in New York. She asked Kerik if he understood that he was entitled to a speedy trial and whether he was willing to waive that right, and he agreed.

Kerik's attorney, Barry Berke, told reporters outside the Washington courthouse that "Mr. Kerik is very much looking forward to the opportunity to contest these charges and be vindicated."

"They are based on the same old allegations from 10 years ago," Berke said, as Kerik and another of his lawyers stood silently behind him. The trio then loaded into a waiting van surrounded by news photographers, while onlookers riding on a passing open-air tour bus took photos of the scene.

Similar false-statement charges were brought as part of the larger case in New York but were dismissed and transferred to Washington, where prosecutors say the crimes occurred.

Kerik faces two trials in White Plains, N.Y., on separate tax and corruption charges. Attorneys for both sides in the case told Collyer that they expect the first trial will go on in October.

The corruption trial will center on allegations that Kerik, while commissioner of the Department of Correction, accepted the apartment renovations from a construction company in exchange for recommending the company for city contracts. The tax counts include allegations of failing to declare income and filing false returns.

Kerik was corrections commissioner from 1998 to 2000 and police commissioner in 2000 and 2001, when Giuliani was mayor.

He withdrew in December 2004 as former President George W. Bush's nominee to be Homeland Security secretary. Amid a rising list of problems with the nomination, Kerik said he was backing out because he discovered he had hired an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper and nanny and had failed to pay the required employment taxes and make related filings on the worker's behalf.

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