Former N.Y.C. Top Cop Kerik Sues Lawyers He Says Got Him Convicted

, New Jersey Law Journal

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Bernard Kerik
Bernard Kerik

Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik is in federal court in Newark, suing lawyers for alleged misconduct he claims contributed to his 2009 tax fraud conviction.

Kerik says the lawyers, Joseph Tacopina and Michael Ross, both of New York, secretly gave or conspired to give privileged information to federal officials that led to his prosecution.

Kerik was released from prison in May 2013 after serving three years on charges stemming from the federal investigation. The conviction came after his June 2006 guilty plea in Bronx County Supreme Court to misdemeanor ethics violations stemming from $255,000 in renovations to his Riverdale apartment that were paid for by a New York City contractor while he was commissioner of the city’s Department of Corrections.

Kerik claims Tacopina falsely represented to him that the offense he was pleading to in the Bronx case was “a violation, no different than pissing on the sidewalk.” But while negotiating the plea agreement and persuading Kerik to set aside his reservations about the deal, Tacopina was a target of a federal criminal investigation and allegedly held secret meetings with federal authorities and provided them with privileged information.

Tacopina withdrew from representing Kerik after being served with a grand jury subpoena in March 2007 in the federal investigation.

Tacopina “sold Mr. Kerik down the river through a series of events reminiscent of The Godfather,” the suit says.

Kerik also claims Ross, who represented Tacopina in connection with the subpoena, conspired with Tacopina “to fraudulently disclose, create, conceal, destroy and/or spoliate evidence with the intent to damage” Kerik.

In the suit, filed Jan. 23, Kerik seeks compensatory and punitive damages on counts of legal malpractice, negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent disclosure of evidence and intentional interference with a business relationship.

Tacopina, of New York’s Tacopina, Seigel & Turano, is a high-profile lawyer whose clients have included Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees and Joran van der Sloot, a Dutch man questioned but not charged in the 2005 disappearance of American vacationer Natalee Holloway in Aruba.

Tacopina’s lawyer, Judd Burstein, a New York solo who has not yet entered an appearance in the case, calls it “an extraordinarily frivolous lawsuit for a host of reasons.” He says he will move to change the venue to New York and to dismiss the suit.

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