Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik's attorneys cannot bring up the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center during his upcoming October trial, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday.
Kerik has been widely praised for his strong response to the terror attacks. But Judge Stephen Robinson said at a pretrial conference Tuesday: "This is not about 9/11."
He asserted that the attacks were "irrelevant" to charges that Kerik accepted apartment renovations from a construction company in exchange for recommending the firm for city contracts, the New York Daily News reported.
Prosecutors had argued that bringing up 9/11 would prejudice jurors in Kerik's favor.
Judge Robinson said Kerik's lawyers can mention that he was commissioner in 2001, but may not specifically mention the attacks.
The judge also issued a sharp rebuke to Kerik and his attorneys for an email he said was sent for publication to The Washington Times by Anthony Modafferi, a lawyer who is the trustee of Kerik's legal defense fund but not a member of his legal defense team.
The Washington Times apparently turned over Modafferi’s email to the Justice Department, which, in turn, complained to the presiding judge about its allegations.
Robinson said Modafferi's article, which was not published, contained information that was supposed to be under seal and some inaccurate information, The Associated Press reported.
The judge suggested that Kerik, who is scheduled to go on trial on Oct. 13, was feeding Modafferi information and went so far as to warn that Kerik could be jailed for inappropriate behavior.
A Kerik attorney told the judge that the former commissioner was unaware of the e-mail, and noted that Kerik had retained Modafferi as an unpaid adviser.
Modafferi wrote on the defense fund's Web site that Kerik "is the victim of a carefully orchestrated campaign of vilification and harassment by government prosecutors."
He is not the first to make that charge. In the September issue of Newsmax magazine, Kerik attorney Barry H. Berke said the Kerik case was an example of "the Department of Justice's overzealous pursuit of high-profile public figures."
After leaving his commissioner post, Kerik was nominated in 2004 by President George W. Bush to be Homeland Security secretary. A week after being nominated, Kerik withdrew, stating that he had unknowingly hired an undocumented worker as a nanny.
Federal prosecutors have included the nanny matter in their charges against Kerik, although dozens of candidates over the years have withdrawn their nominations for various posts for not paying their housekeepers' Social Security taxes. Kerik is the only one to be prosecuted.
But the most pressing federal charges revolve around claims that as New York City Corrections Commissioner in the 1990s Kerik received a gift from a private contractor who completed renovations on Kerik’s apartment. The contractor also did business with the city.
In 2004, an extensive Bronx grand jury probe conducted over an 18-month period found no basis to charge Kerik with criminal wrong doing. Kerik had paid for the renovations, though the cost of the renovations was disputed by both sides.
Significantly, state prosecutors found that there was no evidence Kerik sought to assist the private contractor with city business. In the end, no charges were filed and Kerik agreed to pay a minor fine and was slapped with a misdemeanor, the equivalent of a parking violation.
Still, federal prosecutors began another probe of Kerik in 2006, and have created a laundry list of charges against him.
One indication that federal prosecutors have been out to get Kerik was their handling of the serious allegations Michael Caruso levied in a federal lawsuit. Caruso, who was inspector general for the New York City Department of Correction, filed the suit soon after the Bronx probe of Kerik had been completed.
Caruso’s suit alleged that he was terminated by New York City officials after he refused to testify falsely that Kerik had pushed for the home contractor to garner city business.
Rather than investigate Caruso’s claim that city officials sought to obstruct justice by having him commit perjury in the local grand jury probe, the U.S. attorney prosecuting Kerik has moved to prevent Caruso’s case from going forward.
By staying Caruso’s civil suit, federal prosecutors are seeking to suppress evidence that might exonerate Kerik – evidence that won’t surface until his criminal trial is complete.
Editor’s Note: See Newsmax’s Special Report on “Bernard Kerik: the Trial of an American Hero.”
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