WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Former New York City police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who was hailed as a hero alongside former Mayor Rudy Giuliani after the Sept. 11 terror attacks and nearly became chief of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, was sentenced to four years behind bars Thursday for eight felonies.
Kerik admitted in November that he lied to the White House, filed false taxes and committed other crimes.
"The fact that Mr. Kerik would use that event (9/11) for personal gain and aggrandizement is a dark place in the soul for me," said federal Judge Stephen Robinson.
An apologetic Kerik said before the sentence was pronounced: "Allow me to return to my wife and two little girls as soon as possible."
Federal guidelines indicated Kerik's sentence should be between 27 and 33 months in prison. Robinson said he went beyond the guidelines because they could not account for certain factors.
Kerik was "the chief law enforcement law enforcement officer for the biggest and grandest city this nation has," Robinson said. The crimes were committed "in the process of attempting to become a cabinet level position in the government of the United States."
The prosecutor, Michael Bosworth, said the misdeeds were "driven by arrogance, personal greed and professional ambition."
Kerik will be allowed to surrender voluntarily on May 17; the prison has not been chosen yet.
Kerik, 54, has already been ordered to pay $188,000 in restitution and to pay past-due taxes and penalties on six years of tax returns.
"...I'd like to apologize to the American people for the mistakes I've made and for which I have just accepted responsibility," Kerik said outside the courthouse. "As history is written, I can only hope that I will be judged for 30 years of service I've given to the country and the city of New York."
"...Although this has been the most challenging period of my life ... it will not diminish my love and admiration for this country, which it has been one of my greatest privileges to serve."
Just before pleading guilty, Kerik spent three weeks in the Westchester County Jail for releasing secret pretrial information. While there, he was voluntarily admitted to the psychiatric ward for observation because of stress. Doctors concluded he did not need mental care.
After admitting his crimes, Kerik was freed pending sentencing. He had to post a $1.5 million bond, wear an electronic monitor and generally stay inside his home in Franklin Lakes, N.J.
In presentencing memos to the judge, the defense and prosecution painted sharply different portraits of Kerik.
The defense spoke of his bleak upbringing, his steely leadership after the terror attacks, his remorse and the debt he has incurred to defend himself. It supplied letters of support from his son, fellow police officers, a priest and a man who lost two sons on Sept. 11.
There was no letter from Giuliani.
The prosecution memo said Kerik had "shamelessly exploited" the terror attack, had shamed his gold shield and might flee if he weren't sent to prison right away.
Kerik was Giuliani's police commissioner when New York City was attacked, and he was praised worldwide for his leadership. At Giuliani's urging, he was nominated to the top Homeland Security post in 2004. It was the peak of his fast-rising career - as corruption allegations began to mount.
Kerik said in court that while being vetted for that position, he falsely denied that he had any financial dealings with anyone doing business with New York City. He said he also lied when he claimed he had specifically refused payments that were offered.
In truth, he said, he had accepted renovations of his Bronx apartment from a company seeking city work.
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Those apartment renovations were the focus of the original corruption charge, which alleged that Kerik accepted the renovations in exchange for vouching for the company. Kerik did not admit that.