Feature Articles

July 2006

Bernard Kerik, The Feds, And The Mob

Part Three: The Final Chapter

By J. R. de Szigethy

     Not since the arrest of "Son of Sam" killer David Berkowitz has the Media in New York so vilified someone as they have Bernard Kerik, former Commissioner of the New York City Police Department.

     Unlike Berkowitz, Kerik did not murder anyone. Bernard Kerik did not rape any woman. Kerik did not accept bribes, he did not take money from drug dealers, and, most importantly, he did not sell his badge to members of the American Mafia, as some New York Media reports have suggested.

     What Kerik did admit to in a Bronx Court proceeding, was two misdemeanors regarding failure to report a loan during his tenure as Commissioner of the New York City Corrections Department, and the improper acceptance of contract work on his Bronx apartment. What Kerik admitted to was wrong, unethical, and improper given his position as a public servant, but his actions were not felonious.

     The reactions of average citizens spoken to by were in sharp contrast to the demonizing of Kerik by the Media, most notably the New York Daily News. "This is all politics!" said one seasoned New Yorker who once served on the jury of an infamous Federal case of police corruption. The former juror noted that Kerik is closely associated in the minds of citizens across America with former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, both of whom became national heroes on 9/11. Now, all these years later, Giuliani is a likely candidate for President, as is his former Senatorial campaign rival Hillary Clinton, an undisguised favorite of the left-of-center New York Daily News. Although Giuliani and Kerik no longer work for the same consulting company they formed after leaving office, so bound together in the public�s perception are the two, some political analysts would claim, that to attack the credibility of Kerik would also likely undermine the reputation of former Mayor Giuliani.

     The Daily News itself acknowledged the politics surrounding the case, noting that Kerik�s plea saved Giuliani from a potentially embarrassing trial of his former Police Commissioner as he gears up his national campaign. The political ramifications of this new development were not lost on Kerik�s attorney Joseph Tacopina, who complained to the New York Post that one of the chief investigators in this case was a close ally of former Democratic Mayor Ed Koch.

     Local Prosecutors in the Bronx had every incentive to take Kerik - a nationally-recognized icon - to trial in what would have been a �media circus.� A political career and reputation is often made - or broken - in New York, as in most cities across America, - through the prosecution of high-profile Defendants, during which the Prosecutors enjoy their "15 minutes of fame," which can propel them to higher office. Such was the case of Thomas Dewey, Robert Morgenthau, Robert Kennedy, and Rudy Giuliani, all of whom made a national name for themselves by prosecuting members of the American Mafia.

     Thus, if Prosecutors in the Bronx had had the evidence to obtain an indictment of Bernard Kerik on felony charges, it would have been in their long-term career interests to bring about such indictments. That they chose not to do so should be interpreted as an indication that the evidence did not warrant felony charges, the Media campaign against Kerik notwithstanding.

     Tragically, the REAL organized crime story involving Bernard Kerik that was under-reported in the �mainstream Media� was his fight as a soldier in a war against the drug lords that have spread death, destruction, - and official corruption - throughout New York during the past 20 years. During the 1980s, there arose across America non-traditional, ethnic drug gangs that made billions of dollars through the distribution of crack cocaine. Unlike the American Mafia syndicates, whose �rules of engagement� forbids the harming of reporters or members of law enforcement, these new gangs were openly hostile towards police officers.

     On February 26, 1988, drug dealers brutally executed 22-year-old New York City Police Officer Edward Byrne as he sat in a police car guarding a potential witness in an upcoming prosecution of the drug gang. While Officer Byrne�s murderer, David McClary, would later be convicted, a Federal jury in New York would award $660,000 to McClary to compensate him for the fact that he was being held in 23 hour a day lockdown - the same conditions former Gambino Family Godfather John Gotti was subjected to.

     On October 18, 1988 drug gangs murdered two New York City Police Officers in unrelated events; 24-year-old Officer Michael Buczek and 26-year-old Officer Christopher Hoban were gunned down within hours of each other by drug dealers whose beat was selling drugs to young people in Manhattan. Long before 9/11, the murder of Officer Buczek would be a �defining moment� in the life and career of Bernard Kerik. Like Buczek and Hoban, Kerik was then a young Police Officer working the streets against the drug dealers who had taken over the neighborhoods.

     After the murder of Officer Buczek, the three men who murdered him fled back to their native Dominican Republic, which did not have an extradition treaty with the United States. Kerik vowed to Buczek�s distraught father that whatever it took he would dedicate his life to bringing the killers of Officer Buczek to Justice. That crusade would consume Kerik�s life for the next 12 years, as he joined others, most notably Congressman and Borough President Guy Molinari and Congressman Benjamin Gilman, in exploring every avenue of legal and political methods in bringing about the extradition of the murderers.

     While this battle was going on, drug dealers of every ethnic group, including the American Mafia, operated in New York with apparent impunity. Manuel De Dios, the former editor of El Diario, who had been outspoken in condemning the drug culture�s impact on the Latino community, was murdered in a New York restaurant in March, 1992. That same year saw the attempted murder of Police Officer Michael O�Keefe, who was accosted by a convicted illegal alien drug dealer, �Kiko� Garcia. During the struggle, Garcia attempted to shoot Officer O�Keefe and instead Garcia was fatally shot. Riots broke out in the Washington Heights area after then-Mayor David Dinkins effectively publicly accused O�Keefe of murder. Mayor Dinkins met with the family of the slain drug dealer and used taxpayer funds to pay for the drug dealer�s funeral back in the Dominican Republic. Despite Dinkins� public demands for �Justice,� a Grand Jury cleared Officer O�Keefe of any wrongdoing.

     It was during this time that ordinary beat cops had the shame and indignity forced upon them by their Police Commissioners by being required to stand guard each Fourth of July outside the Bergin Fish and Hunt Club to ensure that no one tried to interfere with the Gambino Mafia Family�s annual illegal fireworks display. The Media in New York essentially gave Mayor Dinkins and his Police Commissioners a �pass� on this outrage, as did the Media pretty much ignore Dinkins� claim that he had simply �forgotten� to pay his income taxes for several years. Also during that time, those members of law enforcement involved in the war on drugs who were not murdered were often falsely accused of violating the �civil rights� of drug dealers, Police Officer Louis Delli-Pizzi and the "Feerick Four," along with former INS agent Joseph Occhipinti being the most notable examples.

     Also during this time of unprecedented corruption, the drug dealers in New York had more than a little help from the Feds. In apparent retaliation against Guy Molinari, then the President of the Borough of Staten Island, the Feds tried to convince a government Informant to wear a wire on Molinari and convince him to offer her a job in exchange for information she had on drug dealers in New York and their corruption of New York officials. The woman refused and reported the attempted set-up to Molinari. A furious Molinari then took this story to the Media, and in April, 1995 the New York Post ran the story: �Guy Molinari Fumes: FBI Tried to Set Me Up!� "It�s outrageous!" Molinari said. "If they will do this to me, an elected official, I hate to think what they might do to a member of the general public!"

     It was during this time that narcotics officer Bernard Kerik rose to become Commissioner of the New York City Corrections Department and then later Commissioner of the New York City Police Department. Kerik and Guy Molinari would eventually succeed in their efforts to have the drug dealers who murdered Police Officer Michael Buczek returned to New York to face trial. The accused were convicted and sent to prison for 25 years to life.

     While the FBI failed in it�s attempt to set up Guy Molinari using a government informant who refused to go along with their scheme, the Feds were more successful with their government Informant Lawrence Ray, who became a player in the mix of Mafia associates involved in New York area stock fraud scams. Curiously, Ray would eventually become closely associated with Kerik, as well as the DiTommaso brothers, who had been friends for many years of Guy Molinari. The DiTommaso brothers, sons of a former New York City Detective, owned several companies, at least one of which was allegedly formerly influenced by a member of the Gambino Family. The DiTommaso brothers have never been charged with a crime.

     Kerik ended his friendship with Lawrence Ray once the government Informant pleaded guilty in a stock fraud scam. Then came 9/11, and Kerik and Giuliani became national heroes. Kerik was the likely best candidate as Nominee to be President Bush�s next Director of Homeland Security after former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge stepped down from this crucial new position. Kerik had since 9/11 served the Bush Administration by training police officers in Baghdad, an assignment that almost again cost him his life.

     However, once Kerik was nominated, it was discovered that he had a "Nanny" problem, in that a former caretaker of his young children had questionable legal status. The "Nanny" problem in regards to public officials first emerged a decade earlier when Zoe Baird had been the first choice of President Clinton to be his Attorney General upon taking office in 1993. However, Baird�s Nomination had to be withdrawn after it was learned she had hired an illegal alien couple to take care of her children. The result of this was Janet Reno and her legacy, Waco and Ruby Ridge.

     After Kerik withdrew due to his own "Nannygate" scandal, and, some would say, the emerging questions as to his finances, Michael Chertoff was chosen to head the Department of Homeland Security. Chertoff�s legacy to date includes the loss of a major city, New Orleans, the fraudulent scamming of over $2 billion in aide intended for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and his recent decisions that New York City has no �landmarks� worth protecting, thus drastic cuts in funds to fight terrorism were justified.

     Ironically, the New York Daily News was among the most vocal Media outlets condemning Chertoff�s apparent incompetence, launching a �grass roots� campaign of ordinary citizens to vilify a national bureaucrat the paper itself was in part responsible for the creation of. Even Bernard Kerik�s harshest critics have to acknowledge that the cuts to New York of Federal funds to fight terrorism world not have happened under his tenure as Director of Homeland Security.

     Instead, Kerik continues to fight America�s enemies through his work fighting terrorists in the Middle East on behalf of countries in that region.

     And, while there will always be some Americans who will have it fixed in their minds that Bernard Kerik was somehow compromised by the American Mafia, Kerik can take comfort in the knowledge that during his tenure as Police Commissioner of the City of New York, not one single beat cop under his command was ordered to stand guard over the illegal operations of the Gambino Mafia Family. Not every Police Commissioner who has served New York City since 1990 can make that claim.

End of a series

Related Features by this author:

Bernard Kerik, The Feds, And The Mob
Part Two: Was Kerik Set-up?

Bernard Kerik, the Feds, and the Mob
Part One:

Crime Scene: World Trade Center

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J. R. de Szigethy can be reached at:

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