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Kerik Appeal Documents Injustice By Judge at Sentencing

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Robinson resigned from the bench to begin work this summer as a partner for Skadden Arps, Kerik's brief noted. Trade publications report that average Skadden partner compensation is $2.1 million. "Under the circumstances," Kerik's brief argued, "the sentencing judge's comments form a backdrop against which the need for resentencing is all the more starkly visible."

Nieman Watchdog, a Harvard University newsletter-website primarily for journalists, first published our on-the-scene courthouse reporting of Robinson's shocking conduct at the Feb. 18 sentencing the next day in, "Feds Bullied Kerik Into 4-Year Term, Hurting Us All."

In "Another Look At The Kerik Case," we followed up two months later with additional revelations about how the judge and prosecutors pressured Kerik into his federal guilty plea.

Among them were the judge's secret pre-trial decision to restrict testimony by a defense witness on the grounds that it might prejudice jurors against the prosecution. Another factor was the judge's threat to remove Kerik's lawyers shortly before trial, along with a repeated suggestion by the judge for Kerik to use a friend of the judge's as the replacement.

These occurrences were part of this week's Kerik filing, prepared by the firm Mayer Brown.

Conventional wisdom in the news media is highly anti-Kerik. Most important are charges and insinuations from long-running investigations that a city contractor with suspected mob ties renovated his coop in 1999 at below-market cost. His reputation is in play also as author of a best-seller The Lost Son and for an affair with the book's editor/publisher Judith Regan. He became a lightening rod also because of controversies surrounding his mentor Giuliani, particularly when the former mayor was preparing in 2007 for a presidential run the next year.

Kerik pleaded guilty to state misdemeanor ethics charges and received a fine, but then was indicted federally in 2007 for related tax and other false statement charges. One falsely telling then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales that the Bush administration wouldn't be embarrassed if he joined the cabinet as Homeland Security secretary.

Given this drumbeat of negative coverage, Kerik's state and federal guilty pleas remain proof positive for many readers of corruption.

But a loyal group of supporters across the country has noted serious flaws in those guilty pleas and the mob rumors, and eagerly awaited this week's appeal.

For example, authorities themselves refuted the mob rumors, as our project noted earlier this year. Yet that refutation of many leaks by law enforcers came only after Kerik pleaded guilty, and then only in a footnote in the prosecution sentencing memo.

Among the mainstream media, Fox News (via Geraldo Rivera) and Newsmax have been rare if not unique in pointing out unfairness in the prosecution and sentencing.

In 2008, Vanity Fair published "Bernie Kerik: Betrayed by Joe" suggesting that Kerik's guilty plea to state charges was compromised because his then-attorney Joe Tacopina encouraged the plea at a time the lawyer knew his own business arrangements with the Follieri Group were under investigation. The magazine's star crime reporter John Connolly researched a much more in-depth piece this year, contacting the Justice Integrity Project among others in the process. But the magazine has not published any additional findings.

USA Today published a series beginning Sept. 23 showing 201 federal cases since 1997 where judges have found law-breaking or other serious misconduct by overzealous prosecutors. This represents a major breakthrough in the mainstream media's willingness to probe systematic abuses by prosecutors in dubious cases.

The series, however, does not encompass cases such as Kerik's where a judge's own conduct is a fundamental part of the misconduct and other unfairness allegations.

Our project investigates judges as well as prosecutors, and thus reached out to then-judge Robinson for comment on our findings earlier this year. He declined to speak but generously gave permission to use his photo. Federal prosecutors also declined comment, but via a spokesman provided links to their filings, for example the sentencing memo, for our website.

Virtually unreported so far by anyone is a Second Circuit rebuke last October of then-judge Robinson for excessive secrecy in pre-trial decision-making leading to Kerik's guilty plea the next month.

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Andrew Kreig is an investigative reporter, attorney, author, business strategist, radio host, and longtime non-profit executive based in Washington, DC. His most recent book is "Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters," the (more...)

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He should receive justice, even if it makes his se... by John Sanchez Jr. on Saturday, Oct 2, 2010 at 1:32:25 PM