Judge Sentences Kerik To Substantially More Than Upper Level Of Federal Guidelines.
Grants Him Three Months Before Surrendering To Prison United States District Court, 300 Quarropas Street, White Plains Judge Stephen C. Robinson, Presiding.
Last Thursday morning, February 18th, former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik appeared for sentencing before United States District Court Judge Stephen C. Robinson following his plea of guilty to eight separate felony charges. Although not binding on Robinson, Kerik’s attorney, Michael Bachner, had come to an agreement several months ago with federal prosecutors Michael Bosworth, Perry Carbone and Elliot Jacobson, that his guilty plea would subject him to a sentence of between 27 to 33 months should the sentencing judge elect to follow the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
Robinson opened the session at 10:11am with the statement, “We are here to sentence Mr. Kerik on his guilty pleading to eight felonies.” Addressing Kerik’s attorney, the Judge then said, “Let me first turn to you, Mr. Bachner; have you had a chance to go over the pre-sentence report?”
Bachner replied, “We have,” and then indicated that any prior issues with the report were “deemed to be resolved.”
Robinson then turned to Bosworth, Carbone and Jacobson, who indicated they, too, were satisfied with the report.
The Judge then reviewed all of the five documents that he had read, (1) the pre-sentence probation report, (2) the sentencing memorandum from Defense Attorney Bachner, (3) the sentencing memorandum from the Government, (4) letters and statements from Kerik supporters, and (5) Kerik’s plea allocution.
Robinson then said, “Let’s move forward,” signalling Attorney Bachner’s opening remarks. Bachner declared, “Bernard Bailey Kerik is before
you with the deepest humility and remorse, Your Honor. He knows by his conduct that he’s let people down.” Bachner emphasized the need for the Court to impose a sentence “sufficient, but not greater than necessary, to achieve the Court’s goals.”
Bachner took the opportunity to remind Robinson that his client’s plea understanding with the Government involved a sentence that would be between 27 and 33 months. He then went into an account of how Kerik, as a detective with the NYPD, had saved the life of a fellow detective, Hector Santiago, at the scene of a “drug buy gone bad.” Bachner referenced “a Talmudic” that “One who saves a life, saves the World.” He then declared, “Your Honor, Bernard Kerik has rescued the world many times over.”
Robinson then broke in with, “I’m going to interrupt your statement. At the same time we have a good cop, the good commissioner, we have the man who was violating the law. Not a bad day, or bad week, or bad year, but all the time.” The Judge repeats, “At the time he is doing good things, he is also violating the law.”
The Judge went on, “He had things on his website that trouble me no end; making it appear he was innocent, and prosecutors were not acting in good faith. We had Mr. Kerik violating orders of this Court, willing to violate the law and obstructing the investigation.”
Bachner broke in with, “Mr. Kerik is a complicated person. He would acknowledge he was inconsistent and wrong. When you’re so high on the pedestal, your fall is very painful.”
Robinson came back with, “At one point I told Mr. Kerik, ‘as you rise through the ranks of public service, you now receive but’...” The Judge was making the point that high office was not necessarily accompanied by high financial reward. He declared, “My law clerks will leave next year and make more money than I do. I can’t afford to send my daughter to the college she goes to.”
He then asked rhetorically, “What is the message that is sent by this sentence today?”
Bachner, as if to calm Robinson down, countered with a remark about general deterrence, and then added, “Twenty-seven months is no slap on the wrist.”
But Robinson was not to be stifled. He came right back with, “I am very seriously thinking about going above the Guidelines.”
Bachner then reminded him of the “27 to 33 month agreement.”
Again, the Judge came right back, “That doesn’t bind me.”
Bachner, going for broke, then said, “Heroism and public service must be taken into account.” Then shifting gears a bit, he declared, “Mr. Kerik is an extraordinary good person in so many ways. We have an obligation to remember the good someone has done. The good outweighs the bad he has done.”
Then, assuming a sentence closer to 27 months for his 54-year-old client, Bachner said, “At age 56 there will be many people who admire him, but many more who don’t. He is remorseful and begs the Court to allow him to resume his life. His supporters are heartbroken by his conduct.”
Now, Robinson began to reveal his own fears, declaring, “People will look at what happens here and it will either resonate with them or it won’t.”
Bachner, who earlier spoke of the sentencing, some years earlier, of a former Connecticut governor, John Roland, now made the mistake of invoking that case again. This time Judge Robinson informed him, offering, “I was the United States Attorney who started that investigation.” (Connecticut Governor John Roland had received some $250,000-worth of renovation to his summer home from a developer doing business with the state.)
All told, Kerik’s attorney argued in his client’s behalf for some 40 minutes.
The Judge now offered Bernard Kerik the opportunity to speak in his own behalf. Kerik rose to his feet and told the Court, “I make no excuses, and take full responsibility for the mistakes I’ve made. I ask only that you allow me to return to my wife and our two little girls as soon as possible.”
Assistant United States Attorney Bosworth now had his say, declaring, “However committed he was to enforcing the law when it came to others, he violated the law when it suited his purposes though.” He then remarked, “The Defendant alone is the architect of his public fall from grace. He committed crime after crime in service of himself over a period of a decade.”
And, now Judge Robinson chimed in with, “There are multiple felonies that Mr. Kerik has pled guilty to that do not influence the Guidelines.”
It was now 11:30am, an hour and twenty minutes into the sentencing, and Robinson was seriously agonizing, “As I’ve already mentioned, for me, Mr. Kerik is a complicated character. The Guidelines don’t take into account the almost operatic properties of this case. We don’t just have anyone here; we have the Police Commissioner of New York City continuing to commit crimes. I have been particularly troubled by the way Mr. Kerik, and people on his behalf, continue to behave.”
Robinson continued, asking, “What is the appropriate consequence for his misconduct?”
Drawing closer to a pronouncement of sentence, but still agonizing, Robinson now opined, “That Mr. Kerik would use the 9/11 event for self-aggrandisement is a dark place in the soul for me.”
He then went on to sentence Kerik to 48 months; 15 months more than the high end of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, plus three years of probation. He was, however, persuaded, after much discussion, to allow Kerik to turn himself in to the designated federal prison on May 17, rather
than remanding him immediately to jail.
The two-hour-long sentencing of Bernard Kerik was ‘vintage’ Judge Robinson, complete with much agonizing and thoughtful consideration to all aspects and individuals sure to be impacted by his decision.
In imposing a 48-month incarceration, 15 months longer than suggested by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Robinson was not ignoring those Guidelines, but, rather, rejecting them because of his appropriate concerns for the message he would convey both to the Defendant and to the world of observers.
However, having so lengthened Mr. Kerik’s term of incarceration, the good Judge remained reasonable and fair, allowing him to surrender to prison authorities in 90 days despite the Government’s arguments to immediately remand him.