Former Top Cop Is Prisoner & Witness In Bronx Trial

He was the top cop in the country's largest police force, but on Monday and Wednesday of this week, former NYPD Commissioner Bernie Kerik was a reluctant witness in a somebody else's trial on charges related to the crimes that sent Kerik behind bars in the first place.

The man who was commissioner from 2000 - 2001 is now known by his federal prisoner identification number, 84888-054. He's in the middle of serving his four-year prison term at a Maryland federal penitentiary for tax fraud and lying to White House officials after he was named, and then dropped, as Homeland Security Secretary eight years ago.

Specifically, Kerik, 57, confessed to lying about renovation work done to his apartment at 679 West 239th Street in the Riverdale section of The Bronx. That work was done by the contracting company owned by brothers Frank and Peter DiTommaso, and was worth about $250,000 for materials and labor.

Kerik ended up confessing to investigators that he'd gotten the work done for free by the brothers, who had hoped to secure more contracting work on New York City projects. Their company, Interstate Industrial Corporation, had already carried out multiple projects for the city.

The DiTommasos are accused of lying about whether or not they had been paid, which is why they're on trial now. Kerik, the key witness against them, had been forced by prosecutors to testify.

PIX11 News asked the former top cop how difficult it was for him to testify, to which he made no response. However, he showed on the stand how challenging it was. Kerik broke into tears on the stand on the first of his two days of testimony, after a lawyer for the DiTommasos asked him questions about the last time he was in a Bronx courthouse. It was in 2006, when he plead guilty to misdemeanor counts. They eventually led investigators at the White House and at the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York to probe further, and their investigation led to Kerik's convictions on eight federal crimes.

Kerik never had to testify in open court about the contracting work that his two former friends the DiTommaso Brothers had done for him. For that and other reasons, the former head of the police department did not want to begin testifying now.

"He doesn't want to be called a rat," said Alexander Sanchez, a Bronx trial attorney who has handled hundreds of cases in his 31 of practice in the Bronx criminal justice system. "He's a prisoner in jail," Sanchez said, "and being called a rat, whether you're the former police commissioner or not, that's not a good situation to be in."

Sanchez made an observation that the ex-commissioner may very well already know: that Kerik, in his testimony, had to be extremely careful in choosing his words, and had to limit all of his comments to what he knows. Otherwise, he could perjure himself.

"It may come back to haunt him," said Sanchez, who added, "The defense is going to make a very big deal that this guy is a corrupt criminal and nothing he says can be believed. That's why I say the prosecution probably has an uphill case."

The jury in the DiTommaso case is expected to begin deliberating shortly. Exactly how soon not completely clear, since nobody related to the case will venture a guess. In fact, they won't say anything. Everybody involved is under a gag order.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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