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Standing Up for Bernie Kerik

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It's time for NYPD Confidential to stand up for Bernie Kerik.

It's time to consider reducing his four year prison sentence, which is 15 months longer than both the federal guidelines and the recommendation of prosecutors who handled his case.

Kerik pleaded guilty last February to eight corruption counts, believing he would be sentenced to between 27-33 months, the federal guidelines.

After federal judge Stephen Robinson added those extra months in prison, he appealed to the U.S. Second Circuit.

In his usual fashion, his arguments are way over the top.

His appeal mischaracterizes Robinson's actions, claiming the judge was "offended" that Kerik's supporters "had proclaimed his innocence and criticized the prosecution prior to the plea, and Mr. Kerik did not 'disavow' these statements. ...

"To allow a sentencing court to penalize a defendant for failing to stop others from criticizing the government and from asserting his innocence prior to a plea would violate core First and Fifth amendment protections," his appeal states.

Well, it's more complicated than that.

Robinson found that Kerik - whom Robinson had already warned -- willfully disobeyed his standing order not to leak sealed information about the case, and did so to create public sympathy that might have poisoned the jury pool.

Robinson blamed Kerik for the actions of his attorney buddy, Anthony Modafferi, who in internet postings wrote that the federal government had threatened to destroy Kerik and his family if Bernie didn't plead guilty.

Robinson dismissed Modafferi's assertions -- for which Modafferi offered no evidence -- as baseless and irresponsible, adding that if true, they were more serious than any charge against Kerik.

In fury and amazement, Robinson then blasted Kerik in court for nearly three hours, calling him "a toxic combination of self-minded focus and arrogance."

"I fear that confidence leads him to believe that the ends justify the means and the rules that apply to all don't necessarily apply to him in the same way."

Robinson then revoked Kerik's $500,000 bail and jailed him for the hearings' duration.

Granted, there's plenty of truth in what Robinson said about Bernie, who even as he entered prison continued to display an oversized sense of importance, posting on the internet all sorts of tidbits about his daily life as well as his thoughts about the Iraq war and terrorism.

As Kerik explained to this reporter at the time: "People still want to hear what I have to say."

Granted, too, Kerik was guilty as charged to a pattern of corrupt acts -- from accepting $165,000 in free apartment renovations from a mob-linked company; to not reporting the rent-free use of an East Side apartment from a real estate guy; to accepting a $250,000, interest-free "loan" from an Israeli industrialist with Defense Department contracts -- a loan he failed to report when nominated as the Director of Homeland Security.

Also on the money was Robinson's belief that Kerik had used his position of "power and influence as the chief law enforcement officer of the greatest and grandest city in America" to lie, steal, and deceive even the President.

Nonetheless, the passing of time makes clear to this reporter that Robinson acted out of personal pique -- and overreacted.

No one gains from his draconian decision to tack on those 15 extra months to Kerik's sentence.

God knows Kerik is no saint (despite what he's been telling himself since 9/11) but one of the world's greatest schnorrers.

Still, let's be fair.

ALL IS LOCAL - EVEN WIKILEAKS

"In language candid and bald, the cables reveal an assessment of Mr. Putin's Russia as highly centralized, occasionally brutal and all but irretrievably cynical and corrupt," the Times' Chris Chivers wrote last week of the cables from the American embassy in Moscow, released by WikiLeaks.

Now let's see what happens if we substitute "Kelly" for Putin, and "NYPD" for Russia. We might see disturbing similarities.

The NYPD is so highly centralized that no decision, no matter how small, is said to be made without Kelly's approval.

As for "occasionally brutal," remember how the NYPD treated Michael Pigott, the Emergency Service Unit lieutenant blamed for the death of an emotionally disturbed man.

Pigott had ordered an officer to taser the EDP, who was naked, perched on a building ledge and menacing the cop trying to rescue him. After being tasered, Morales fell head-first to the pavement and died.

Pigott took responsibility for Morales' death and publicly apologized to the dead man's family. The department stripped him of his badge and gun, placed him on desk duty in another unit, away from his colleagues and support system and threatened him with arrest.

Eight days later at 4AM, he returned to his old unit, broke into a colleague's locker, removed his gun and fired a bullet into his head. In a suicide note, he said he feared being arrested and didn't want his family to see him in handcuffs or behind bars. Beside the note were pictures of his three children.

"Cynical?" Here, we refer readers to a Dec. 3 letter to the Times by two increasingly embattled academics, Eli Silverman and John Eterno, who claim that the department has been manipulating for at least 15 years.

They cite audiotapes by police officers that document instructions to downgrade major crimes to the lesser class of misdemeanors in order to lower the official crime rate; statistics from the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services to show that misdemeanor crimes skyrocketed from 1996 to 2000; and hospital admissions data that reveal that assaults -- firearms assaults in particular -- have more than doubled from 1991 to 2005.

They also cite last month's revelation by the Times that since Kelly became police commissioner in 2002, the police department has failed to report misdemeanors. Reason given by Kelly's spokesman, Paul Browne: a "computer glitch."

Finally, what about "corrupt?" After this column revealed the unauthorized moonlighting of former 113th precinct executive officer, Captain Matthew Travaglia, charged a year ago with conducting his law practice while claiming to be on duty, we received the following email.

"I am a member of the 113th precinct anti-crime unit and am consistently forced to run errands for Travaglia. He twice had us deliver paperwork to the courthouse in Mineola (L.I.) His office is used as a law department and he has even represented members of the command on legal issues, including disability claims and social security issues.

"In return his father (a retired NYPD officer) gives sports tickets to events in New York. We arrested someone once and got a call from the former commanding officer of the Queens task force to take care of it. When we didn't, we got hell from him at a detail. He even told us we didn't know who we were messing with when it came to Travaglia's father, who was well-connected. Captain Matthew even told a female MOS in the command that if she hired him to represent her in her disability case, he had connections through his father at the medical board.

"The C.O. (the commanding officer of the 113th precinct) allows this... and has even told us she can't do anything about it if she likes her career. She once spoke to Travaglia and received a call from a high ranking boss admonishing her."

The C.O. is Kristel Johnson, whom Kelly recently promoted to full Inspector.

The high-ranking boss who admonished her is believed to be former Queens South borough commander Thomas Dale.

Despite the charges against Travaglia, Dale subsequently approved his moonlighting, which allowed him to work the 4 P.M. to midnight tour while continuing to run his law practice during the day.

Last year, Kelly promoted Dale to Chief of Personnel.

As for Travaglia, he was recently wrist-slapped -- transferred to the 105th precinct, where he is working days and which is closer to his home.