President Donald Trump on Tuesday pardoned Bernard Kerik, the former New York police commissioner who rose to national fame in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and was later sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to felony charges including tax fraud and lying to White House officials.
The White House announced Tuesday that Trump had granted a full pardon to Kerik, as well as a commutation for disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
The White House said in a statement that since Kerik’s conviction, “he has focused on improving the lives of others, including as a passionate advocate for criminal justice and prisoner re-entry reform.”
“His 30 years of law enforcement service and tenure as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction have given him a unique understanding and perspective on criminal justice and prisoner re-entry reform, and he remains an invaluable contributor to these endeavors.”
Kerik was sentenced to four years in prison in 2010 after pleading guilty to eight felony charges for offenses including failure to pay taxes and lying to White House officials during a failed nomination to be Homeland Security secretary.
An Army veteran, Kerik once worked on Rudy Giuliani’s security detail when Giuliani was mayor. Giuliani made Kerik commissioner of the city’s Department of Correction, and in 2000 named him police commissioner. The pair worked side by side on Sept. 11, 2001.
The fall of Kerik’s career began when President George W. Bush nominated him to lead the Department of Homeland Security.
Kerik abruptly withdrew his name, citing questions raised about the immigration status of a former housekeeper and nanny.
Prosecutors would later say that Kerik gave “false and misleading statements” to White House officials while being vetted for that position.
The federal case centered on charges that he had received more than $250,000 in renovations for his Bronx apartment from a construction company suspected of having ties to organized crime and helping the company’s bids for city contracts.
Kerik admitted to contacting New York City regulators about the company, named Interstate. Prosecutors said Kerik did not report the value of the renovations on his federal tax returns and made false statements about the renovations and his relationship with Interstate to White House officials.
Judge Stephen Robinson of U.S. District Court in White Plains, New York, sentenced Kerik to four years, exceeding the sentencing guidelines of less than three years.
“I think it’s fair to say that with great power comes great responsibility and great consequences,” Judge Robinson said at the time. “I think the damage caused by Mr. Kerik is in some ways immeasurable.”
He was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay nearly $188,000 in restitution.
“It is a very sad day when the former commissioner of the greatest police department in the world is sentenced to prison for base criminal conduct,” Preet Bharara, then U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement at the time.
Prior to the federal case, Kerik pleaded guilty in New York State Supreme Court in 2006 for two misdemeanors related to the renovations and was fined but did not receive jail time.
He was released from federal prison in 2013 after serving three years.
Since Kerik’s release, he’s become an advocate for prison reform and a frequent presence and Trump advocate on Fox News.
Kerik has also worked as a strategist for Navy SEAL Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, who was accused of war crimes for the fatal stabbing of a wounded fighter of the Islamic State extremist group. In July, Gallagher was found not guilty by a military court of six of the seven charges against him, including murder and attempted murder.
Last week, a former associate of Kerik’s was arrested and charged with counts that include extortion, sex trafficking, forced labor and money laundering in connection with alleged crimes against students from Sarah Lawrence College, according to an unsealed indictment.
Lawrence Ray was the best man at Kerik’s wedding before the two had a falling out and Ray eventually served as a cooperating witness in an investigation against Kerik.
On Tuesday afternoon, Kerik thanked Trump in a statement.
“With the exception of the birth of my children, today is one of the greatest days in my life — being made a full and whole American citizen again,” he wrote. “Going to prison is like dying with your eyes open. Its aftermath of collateral consequences and the permanent loss of many of your civil and constitutional rights are personally devastating.”
“This pardon restores those rights, for which I will be eternally grateful,” he said.