Bernie Kerik pleads guilty to federal charges

The former New York City police commissioner faces 2 1/2 years in prison

Published November 5, 2009 5:01PM (EST)

Bernie Kerik started from humble beginnings, but he rose to the top at a remarkable speed.  His mother, he revealed in his autobiography, was a prostitute, but he went into law enforcement. Once he became friends with New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, things happened fast: In less than a decade, he went from being an undercover detective to the city's correction commissioner and then the head of its police department.

The fall happened just as fast.

It began at the end of 2004, when then-President George W. Bush named Kerik as his choice to head the Department of Homeland Security. Questions about some of his dealings led to the nomination being withdrawn, but it was too late to save him.

On Thurday, Kerik plead guilty to federal charges that stemmed from the nomination, which included lying to the Bush administration about his relationship with contractors who worked for the city and renovated his apartment. He's also expected to admit to his guilt on tax charges. Prosecutors have recommended 27 to 33 months in prison, but a judge could decide to sentence him to more than that -- the maximum is 61 years.

The plea came after Kerik, who'd originally planned a vigorous defense, had his bail revoked and was sent to jail a little more than two weeks ago. During that time, there were reportedly serious concerns about his mental state and he spent 10 days in a psychiatric unit.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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