Bernie Kerik Reports to Prison Monday
Former NYC police commissioner Bernard Kerik will self-surrender to a federal prison tomorrow to begin serving a 48 month sentence for crimes related to under-reporting the value of renovations on a personal residence and making false statements on his Homeland Security application.
Bernie has just posted a "farewell" and "thanks" post, It's Time to Move Forward, on his blog. He's prepared to accept his fate, but points out in detail, it's not a fair one.
For nearly three years, I prepared to go to trial to defend myself against substantially the same charges I had already faced in New York State Court. Then, just days before the federal trial was to begin, my bail was revoked and I was imprisoned. The judge threatened to disqualify my legal team, which both he and the government prosecutors had already done twice before and would have sent me back to square one for the third time with my savings now exhausted.
On November 5th, 2009, I was being held in pre-trial detention and financially helpless. I faced the prospect of remaining behind bars awaiting trial for what could have been more than a year while new court appointed lawyers prepared for my defense. As a result, I decided to accept a plea agreement offered by the government prosecutors. I plead guilty to eight counts in exchange for a sentence of 27 to 33 months, which many legal observers have opined as severe considering the allegations made against me in the case, especially considering my otherwise unblemished record of service to this country dating back more than 30 years to my days as a young GI in Korea.
Ignoring the signed plea agreement and recommendations made by the prosecutors, as well as the recommendation of the U.S. Department of Probation and my highly decorated service to the American people, the judge sentenced me to 48 months in federal prison – 15 months over the recommended and agreed upon sentence.
Words cannot express my disappointment in the prosecutors and the judge’s behavior, and his sentence that followed. I have repeatedly expressed remorse for what I may have done, however, unlike many, I can’t remain silent in the face of what I believe has been a gross injustice, which I pray will be remedied by an appellate court.
Geraldo, who has been a great supporter of Kerik's, levied more pointed criticism at Bernie's sentencing judge last week (see video clip above), calling him reckless, out of control and a liberal activist. Bernie, who has lost a lot of weight, also appears on the segment, and in a subdued tone, says "we'll get through it."
The segment begins with both Geraldo and Bernie calling for a restriction on Miranda rights. The constitution, they say, didn't contemplate 9/11 and the war on terror, and needs to adapt. Do they even get the irony in that?
They're saying we need to restrict our rights under the Constitution to defeat the terrorists. Can they not see that the minute we curtail constitutional rights because of terrorists, we've accepted defeat for our way of life, our government, our values and our principles?
The Constitution is what elevates us as a nation, above all others, in the free world. For 200 years, we have been the beacon of liberty in the free world.
Geraldo and Kerik are suggesting we turn out that shining light and kow-tow to terrorists determined to harm us. They're willing to give up something al Qaida never even dreamed of taking from us -- something even more precious than 3,000 lives -- the principles on which this country was founded.
The bedrock of these principles, as contained in the Bill of Rights, is the ability of the citizen accused to stand up to the awesome power of his or her Government and say "prove it in a court of law" -- which means a court where the right to remain silent is paramount, where coerced confessions and illegally seized evidence are inadmissible -- a court where an impartial jury, untainted by law enforcement leaks of one-sided, untested allegations are played and replayed in the media -- a jury composed of fellow citizens, not military officials sitting on some sloppily legislated military commission -- determine the outcome. And a court where, if the Government fails to carry its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the accused is released -- not subjected to a possible lifetime of indefinite detention under the rubric of a "law of war" when the war, according to the Government, is never-ending.
Back to Bernie. He may be dead-wrong on Miranda rights, the Constitution and how to respond to terror threats, and even though he's willing to legislate away our rights, I'm not willing to say he's not entitled to his. As I wrote the day he was sentenced, the Government hammered him relentlessly. There was:
...the disqualification of two of his lawyers; charging crimes so closely related to those in his prior Bronx case; wiretapping his cell phone; adding a new federal criminal case in the District of Columbia, resulting in him facing three trials instead of two, since the judge had severed some of the counts; asking the judge to revoke his bond right before trial; and asking to have him remanded immediately.
This isn't about whether you agree or disagree with Bernie's political views. It's not about defending what Bernie did. It's not saying he didn't deserve punishment. It's about whether the government abused the awesome power it brings to bear when it charges a defendant -- any defendant -- with a federal crime.
I do feel sorry for Bernie. From my review of nearly all the pleadings in his case over the years, I don't disagree with his assessment. As I wrote in the post linked above:
But I feel even more sorry for him after watching this Geraldo clip, because he can't see that the over-zealous prosecution tactics he's now endorsing for terror suspects and non-citizens are not that different from those used against him -- and that legislating away constitutional rights, even if limited to the rights of those suspected of a heinous crime, will eventually lead to such restrictions becoming standard operating procedure to be used against others in the probably not far-off future.
I think [the Government] not only over-reached, but used a sledge-hammer to kill an ant.
Yes, Bernie Kerik committed some crimes and should be held accountable. But they didn't need to extract the pounds of flesh they took from him in the process. It's not right and it's not justice.
A few weeks ago, former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio was brought from federal prison in PA to court in Denver, to formally waive the right to be present at his upcoming re-sentencing. He told the Judge the people he met in prison were better people than some of those he had worked with as CEO. Martha Stewart had similar compliments for the women inmates she was housed with during her prison term, and for a time afterward, advocated for them. If Bernie isn't placed in protective custody, he'll meet many inmates who don't seem to belong in prison. He'll hear horror stories from those whose rights were violated, and who, he believes, rightly or wrongly, like him, didn't get a fair shake.
Bernie has a long sentence to serve -- more than three years, even with good time. That's more than enough time for him to come around and realize the importance of zealously guarding and protecting everyone's constitutional rights, including those we fear or despise the most.
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