WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — The terror attack on the World Trade Center, which made New York City's police commissioner a national figure, cannot be brought up by the defense at his corruption trial, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
"This is not about 9/11," Judge Stephen Robinson said at a pretrial conference. He said the attack was irrelevant to allegations that former Commissioner Bernard Kerik accepted apartment renovations from a construction company in exchange for recommending the company for city contracts.
The government had requested that the defense not be allowed to bring up 9/11, apparently because it would prejudice jurors in Kerik's favor. Kerik received heavy publicity, much of it glowing, for his actions after terrorist-controlled jetliners brought down the trade center on Sept. 11, 2001.
The judge said defense lawyers may mention that Kerik was commissioner in 2001 and that he received much attention, but may not specifically mention the attack.
Robinson also said he would also consider case-by-case whether witnesses can mention 9/11; for example, he said, a witness may want to say that Kerik's performance after the attack was the reason he was considered for head of Homeland Security.
Kerik's trial is scheduled to start next month. He has pleaded not guilty.
Robinson spent much of the hearing criticizing Kerik and his lawyers for an e-mail that he said was submitted to The Washington Times for publication by Anthony Modafferi, an Oakland, N.J., lawyer who is the trustee of Kerik's legal defense fund.
The judge said the article, which was not published, contained some information that was supposed to be under seal and some inaccurate information. He said Modafferi was Kerik's "propagandist and chief fund raiser" and suggested Kerik was feeding him information "for those two purposes."
"You are providing information to what would loosely be called, and charitably, a loose cannon," the judge said.
He warned Kerik he could be jailed for inappropriate behavior and demanded an affidavit spelling out his connection to Modafferi.
Defense lawyer Barry Berke told the judge that Kerik was unaware of the e-mail. He said Kerik had retained Modafferi for legal advice — but not in writing and not for pay. The judge said Modafferi should appear in court if he's part of the defense team.
On the legal defense fund's Internet site, Modafferi writes that Kerik "is the victim of a carefully orchestrated campaign of vilification and harassment by government prosecutors."
The judge told the lawyers that since former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was Kerik's boss, "may become an issue," he was disclosing that he had been hired by Giuliani as a prosecutor when Giuliani was U.S. attorney in Manhattan.
He also said he had received a solicitation to give money for Kerik's defense, probably because of his Giuliani connection.
"I didn't make any donation," the judge said.