Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik admitted in court Thursday that he lied to the White House while being considered for chief of Homeland Security.
Kerik, hailed as a hero after the 9/11 attack, also pleaded guilty to lying on tax returns, a loan application and a questionnaire he filled out when he was seeking a separate U.S. government position.
Under his plea bargain, which short-circuited as many as three federal trials, he was not required to plead guilty to the main corruption charges against him. Those charges will be dismissed.
In a low but firm voice, Kerik said "guilty" eight times as he admitted to eight felonies, including lying about paying taxes on his children's nanny, hiding income from the Internal Revenue Service and faking a charitable contribution.
Kerik acknowledged failing to declare on his returns book royalties, consultant fees and the use of a BMW.
In the plea agreement, prosecutors suggested to Judge Stephen Robinson that the appropriate sentence would be between 27 and 33 months in prison. Robinson noted that he is not bound by that suggestion when he sentences Kerik on Feb. 18. The judge said the maximum sentence is 61 years.
Kerik, who was jailed last month for sharing secret pretrial information, may be released before his sentencing. Defense attorney Michael Bachman said he would apply within a few days, and the judge said he would seriously consider the request.
The judge also said he would consider Kerik's accomplishments when he sentences him.
"You've had a very full life," Robinson told the 54-year-old Kerik. "There is much good in that full life, I believe."
Kerik was police commissioner when New York was attacked on 9/11 and was praised worldwide for his steely leadership. At the urging of his mentor, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Kerik was nominated to the top Homeland Security post in 2004, the peak of a fast-rising career.
He said in court that while being vetted for that position, he denied that he had any financial dealings with anyone doing business with New York City and that he had specifically refused payments that were offered. He admitted Thursday, however, that he had actually accepted renovations of his Bronx apartment from a company seeking city work.
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 to that.
Prosecutors would not comment when asked why the corruption charge was being dropped.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara issued a statement calling Thursday "a sad day" because of Kerik's admissions. "No one is above the law," he added.
Kerik could be fined in addition to being sentenced to prison. He has already agreed to pay nearly $188,000 in restitution and to resummit his personal tax returns for six years, paying past-due taxes and penalties.
The charges against him had been divided into corruption allegations, tax crimes and lying to the White House. Three trials would have been required, two in White Plains and one in Washington.