By TOM HAYS
Associated Press Writer
NEW YORK- As head of the police department on Sept. 11, 2001, Bernard Kerik rose to national prominence while leading the agency's response to the terror attacks.
In recent months, the one-time nominee for Homeland Security chief has gained notoriety for something far less heroic: an extravagant home-improvement project that made him the target of a bribery investigation.
Kerik was set to plead guilty Friday to charges he accepted tens of thousands of dollars in gifts while he was a top city official. He was appearing in court to address "the matter of a long-term investigation into allegations of misconduct," prosecutors said in a statement Thursday, without elaborating.
His attorney, Joseph Tacopina, said that recent negotiations with prosecutors had produced a tentative agreement in which Kerik would plead guilty to low-level misdemeanors, sparing him a possible jail term.
According to published reports, Kerik would admit he violated conflict-of-interest codes by accepting a gift - $200,000 (euro160,000) in renovations to his apartment courtesy of a New Jersey construction company with alleged links to the mob. He was correction commissioner at the time and later became police commissioner.
If the deal goes through, Kerik would have to pay a large fine but not go to jail. He would be able to continue his new career as a security consultant in the Middle East.
Prosecutors had considered bringing felony bribery charges against Kerik based on allegations that in exchange for the renovations he helped the company, Interstate Industrial Corp., seek business with the city.
Through his attorney, Kerik had previously denied any wrongdoing, saying that he paid every bill he received for the job - about $30,000 (euro24,000) - and that he never intervened for Interstate.
In late 2004, President George W. Bush tapped Kerik for Homeland Security chief, but Kerik withdrew after acknowledging he had not paid all taxes for a family nanny-housekeeper and that the woman may have been in the country illegally.
More problems surfaced last year when the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement filed court papers seeking to revoke Interstate Industrial's license to work on casinos in Atlantic City. The papers cited testimony by mob turncoats that owners Frank and Peter DiTommaso were associates of the Gambino organized crime family. The DiTommaso brothers deny the allegations.
The civil complaint also detailed a cozy relationship between Kerik and an Interstate official. In 1999, he sent e-mails to the official that "indicated his lack of sufficient funds to both purchase and renovate his new Bronx apartment," and "indicated he would provide information to Frank DiTommaso regarding New York City contracts," the papers said.
In recent months, a grand jury in the Bronx has heard conflicting testimony from the DiTommaso brothers - who denied paying for the renovations - and from a contractor who said they picked up most the tab. Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a close friend of Kerik, also testified.