Kerik’s legal muscle again at issue

Bernard Kerik's jail mug shot

Bernard Kerik's jail mug shot

Former NYPD Commisioner Bernie Kerik will be back in court this afternoon where federal prosecutors are expected to lay out their reasons why they think Judge Stephen C. Robinson should conduct a hearing to determine if Kerik’s lawyers Barry Berke and Eric Tirschwell are barred by potential conflicts from representing Kerik.

It’s deja vu all over again for the former presidential nominee for secretary of Homeland Security now known in Valhalla as Inmate #210717. Federal prosecutors got his last lawyer, Ken Breen, bounced from the case the same way. Breen, it turns out, is a potential witness in the case.

Whatever the outcome of the case, Kerik can’t complain he had a lack of talent working on his side of the aisle.  Breen’s bona fides include 10 years  as a federal prosecutor, part of which was a stint as the deputy chief of the securities and business fraud section in the US Attorney’s office in Brooklyn. And his current lawyers hardly represent a step down: Berke has been recognized as one of  the 50 best litigators in the country under the age of 45 by the magazine The American Lawyer. Tirschwell was recognized last year by Lawdragon as one of the 500 best lawyers in the country.

And all that doesn’t even include headline-making defense lawyer Joe Tacopina who represented Kerik when he was prosecuted by the Bronx D.A.’s office and in the early stages of the federal investigation. Tacopina, fresh off his successful defense of  state senator Hiram Monserrate against felony charges stemming from the slashing of his girlfriend, is expected to be called by federal prosecutors to testify against Kerik.

To jail or not to jail

Judge Stephen C. Robinson said today that, contrary to a few media reports, he was not “angry” during last week’s hearing where he ordered former NYPD Commissioner Bernie Kerik jailed for slipping confidential court docs to a New Jersey lawyer who used them to formulate an email sent to but never printed in the Washington Times.

I’m going to take the judge at his word and must admit having seen him, shall we say, more animated in his disappointment at other times (the defense’s opening argument in the James Curley trial jumps to mind.)

In addition, I guess it’s hard to accuse a judge of being irate when he off the top of his head recites, flawlessly, a Shakespearean sonnet in reference to a defendant. Robinson  reached for the Bard’s No. 29 in explaining that he thought Kerik saw himself as an unfairly castigated man. It goes a little something like this:

“When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,

I all alone beweep my outcast state

And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries

And look upon myself and curse my fate,

Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,

Featured like him, like him with friends possess’d,

Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,

With what I most enjoy contented least;

Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,

Haply I think on thee, and then my state,

Like to the lark at break of day arising

From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;

For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings

That then I scorn to change my state with kings.”

One of Kerik’s lawyers, Michael Bachner, duly impressed, sheepishly admitted the only line of Shakespeare he knew by heart was from Hamlet. (“To thine own self be true.”)

Robinson, as quick a wit as you’ll find on any bench, replied, “What about, ‘First kill all the lawyers.'”

Bernie Kerik: Pirro’s still on the air?

Former NYPD commish Bernie Kerik has, for the most part, ignored the coterie of reporters who have attended his appearances in federal court in White Plains. Queries are met with a polite “no comment” and the same non-plussed look that Kerik has carried since his first appearance on Nov. 9, 2007, after he was indicted on charges of public corruption, tax fraud, and lying to White House officials.

But today as his lawyers and federal prosecutors talked with a federal judge in the judge’s chambers about a separate federal grand jury investigation, Kerik ambled over to the rail between the defense table and the gallery rows and struck up a conversation with me that went from weather, to terrorism, to Jeanine Pirro’s TV show, “Judge Jeanine Pirro.”

Talking about the case of  Najibullah Zazi, the Afghan immigrant accused of being an al-Qaida operative who plotted to carry out terrorist attacks in New York City, Kerik wondered if al-Qaida might not be aping the tactics of the notorious Cali drug cartel. Kerik said the Cali cartel used to send their hit squad operatives in teams where each team would have no idea of the others’ existence or the mission until until their overseas handler told them to meet up. Kerik said if Zazi had been successful in carrying out any attacks the effect would be greater than 9/11 regardless of whether the attacks approached the scale of  9/11.

“It would shut us down,” he said.

News of the federal investigation of Kerik broke when Jeanine Pirro, the former Westchester district attorney, announced ahead of a news story that she was under investigation for allegedly conspiring with Kerik to illegally bug her husband Albert Pirro Jr.’s boat. Jeanine Pirro suspected her husband of carrying on an extramarital affair on the boat. Neither she nor Kerik were ever charged in connection with that incident.

But Kerik apparently has not been keeping tabs on his alleged co-conspirator.

“Is her show still on?” he asked when Pirro’s name was mentioned.

Yes, it is, Commissioner. Channel 5, 4 p.m., Monday thru Friday.