Kerik Gets 4 Years Behind Bars

Former NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik hit with a long stretch in prison

By Jonathan Dienst
|  Friday, Mar 4, 2011  |  Updated 8:21 PM EDT
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Kerik Gets 4 Years Behind Bars

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Bernard Kerik will spend four years behind bars.

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Corrupt former NYPD commissioner Bernard Kerik was sentenced to 48 months in prison for tax fraud and lying to the White House.

At today's sentencing, Judge Stephen Robinson decided to give the former top-cop 15 months more than the recommended 33 month prison sentence Kerik and prosecutors had agreed to under a plea deal.  Kerik admitted to committing 8 felonies when he pleaded guilty back on November 5.

"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 Judge Robinson.

The judge said he gave the former top cop extra time because "the guidelines don't take into account the almost operatic proportions of this case."

Kerik, who can voluntarily surrender, will report to jail on May 17. 

"I make no excuses and take full responsibility for my grave mistakes," he told the court.  Dressed in a navy pin stripped suit and looking thin and drawn, Kerik said " I know I deserve punishment," adding "I hope to return to be with my wife and girls as soon as possible."

"I would like to apologize to the American people," Kerik said as he left the courtroom.

Prosecutors had wanted the 54 year-old Kerik sent straight to prison once the sentence was announced.  In their sentencing papers, the feds called on the judge to send a strong message that corruption cannot be tolerated by those sworn to uphold the law. 

Kerik has admitted he accepted more than $250,000 in renovations to his home from a construction firm with alleged mafia ties.  He has also admitted to lying on his application to the White House in an attempt to become Homeland Security Secretary under President George W. Bush

 Read the sentencing

Kerik's lawyer had asked for leniency, pointing out Kerik's career of service in law enforcement -- including running the NYPD during the 9/11 attacks.  More than 30 letters asking for leniency were submitted on Kerik's behalf.  Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who promoted Kerik to the city's highest law enforcement post, did not submit a letter to Judge Robinson.

Defense attorney Michael Bachner begged the judge to impose 27 months in prison, the lower end of the sentencing guidelines, detailing Kerik's past bravery and public service, including 30 medals, saving his partner's life and improving the city police and corrections departments that he once ran.

"I beseech your honor on behalf of Mr. Kerik and his family to show him leniency in this sentencing," said Bachner.

Robinson did commend Kerik for his years of service. But, citing his lies to the White House during his bid for Homeland Security Secretary, the judge said "the damage caused by Mr. Kerik is immeasurable."

Prosecutor Michael Bosworth outlined a "decade long period of criminal conduct" by Kerik and expressed doubts that he has changed. "We don't share the rosy conclusion that a new day is born," said Bosworth.

The 2nd floor courtroom was packed with media as well as Kerik's family and friends, including his wife Hala, who closed her eyes in distress after Judge Robinson gave Kerik 15 more months in prison than suggested in the sentencing guidelines. Also there were Kerik's 24 year old son Joseph, a Newark police officer, his brother, sister and rows full of buddies from his police and correction department days.

Before learning his fate, Kerik warmly greeted paralyzed police detective Steven McDonald, an iconic figure of sacrifice for the NYPD. Court officers gave McDonald a place in the front, his ventilator often times the only sound in the packed room once the proceeding began.

Kerik has been on home confinement since his guilty plea in November.  He is believed to be the first NYPD commissioner in history to be sent to prison.

Jonathan Dienst reports at 6 and 11 pm on News 4 New York

Jonathan Dienst WNBC/NBC

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