NEWARK (CN) - Bernard Kerik sued his former attorney, claiming the man duped him into entering into a plea deal that served as a "catalyst" to a 16-count federal indictment against the former New York City Police Commissioner.
Kerik sued Joseph Tacopina and Tacopina's attorney, Michael S. Ross, "a prominent ethics attorney in New York," alleging negligence, legal malpractice, fraud and other counts, in Federal Court.
President George W. Bush in December 2004 nominated Kerik to be head of the Department of Homeland Security. Kerik withdrew his nomination about a week later, acknowledging that he had hired an undocumented immigrant as a nanny. Investigations followed and he eventually pleaded guilty to eight of the 16 charges, including tax fraud and ethics violations. He served 3 years in prison.
Shortly after he withdrew from the Homeland Security appointment, Kerik says, his attorney, Tacopina, informed him that he was under investigation for his conduct when he served as Commissioner of the Department of Corrections.
That investigation centered around renovations to Kerik's apartment in the Riverdale area of the Bronx.
During this time, Kerik says, Tacopina recruited attorney Kenneth Breen to help him during the grand jury phase. Breen is not a party to the complaint.
On June 20, 2006, Kerik says, Tacopina rold him via email that if he pleaded guilty to two ethics violations - having the renovations paid for by Interstate Industrial Corporation or its subsidiaries, which employed a family member of Kerik and a friend - all investigations would be closed and it would be "everything we wanted."
Kerik says in the complaint: "Defendant Tacopina represented that no harm would result in order to lure Mr. Kerik into accepting a plea of guilty under what defendant Tacopina described as 'a violation, no different than pissing on the sidewalk,' with no repercussions, was in fact the catalyst to federal criminal charges on taxes specifically represented by Tacopina would not arise from taking the plea in the Bronx case. Defendant Tacopina continue[d] his harm toward plaintiff through secreted meetings with federal prosecutors where privileged information and/or false information was exchanged and provided against the interest of his client, Mr. Kerik while simultaneously concealing the fact that defendant Tacopina himself was a subject or target of an ongoing federal criminal investigation."
Despite feeling "uncomfortable" saying he had accepted a gift, Kerik says, he signed the deal under the "strenuous advice" of Tacopina.
"During this time, defendant Tacopina masterminded the plea allocution/agreement and its terms limited the knowledge and/or participation of Mr. Breen, then sold Mr. Kerik down the river through a series of events reminiscent of 'The Godfather,'" Kerik says in the complaint.
He claims that Tacopina assured him, before, during and after the plea deal, that the plea would end all investigations of him, that he would suffer no tax liabilities and his family would be able to move on with their lives.
But that's not what happened.
"(I)mmediately after Mr. Kerik accepted the negotiated plea and pled guilty in state court on June 30, 2006, the DOI's [Department of Investigation] lead investigator, and now Bronx prosecutor, Mr. Arsenualt sent letters to state and federal tax and law authorities, calling for an investigation surrounding Mr. Kerik relating to the Bronx case," the complaint states.