March 17, 2014

Kerik v. Tacopina: Serious Charges and Counterclaims

Kerik and Tacopina
One of my favorite Monday morning reads, Leonard Levitt's NYPD Confidential, takes a look today at the disgraced former NYPD Commissioner Bernie Kerik's pending lawsuit against his former attorney, Joseph Tacopina.

As Levitt explains, Kerik blames Tacopina (whom Levitt describes as Kerik's former business partner and good friend) for his federal felony conviction in 2009 on charges that range from filing false tax returns to lying to the government during his 2005 Homeland Security nomination process. The conviction netted Kerik four years in a federal prison.

By way of a brief history, Kerik says that Tacopina convinced him to plead guilty in 2006 in a Bronx criminal case to accepting $165,000 worth of free renovations to his apartment. Kerik was the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections at the time of the renovations and the company that provided the services was looking for a city contract. Apparently, Kerik was told that the guilty plea would close out his legal liability. In fact, the opposite was true.

Levitt reports that Tacopina wrote in a memo to Kerik on June 20, 2006, the day of Kerik's guilty plea to two misdemeanor counts, "We got everything we wanted." However, Kerik's troubles were far from over. Seizing on his guilty plea, federal agents began investigating Kerik, and ultimately indicted him on 16 counts of conspiracy and tax fraud. Next, the government disqualified Tacopina from continuing as Kerik's counsel based on the argument that he was a potential government witness.

Kerik is now alleging in a lawsuit pending in federal court in New Jersey that Tacopina met secretly with federal prosecutors and handed them information about Kerik which was grist for the federal prosecution. The meeting, according to Kerik, came about during the course of a federal investigation into an alleged fee-splitting case involving Tacopina and attorney Ron Fischetti (which apparently went nowhere). It was then that Tacopina provided information that he presumably learned as Kerik's legal counsel.

As Levitt says, the revelation is stunning. Should it turn out that Tacopina violated any of Kerik's confidences, his license could be in serious jeopardy, and his reputation would be severely damaged. It's bad enough to talk out of school, but it's unforgivable to sell out a client to prosecutors to save your own skin.

Tacopina denies Kerik's allegations, and has counterclaimed for defamation, and brought claims against the Daily News, premised on the idea that the paper and Kerik conspired together against him. It is hard to imagine this case settling, since any agreement would suggest there's at least some truth to the allegations. On the other hand, an all out war could be potentially damaging for all concerned, particularly since Bernie has now waived his attorney-client privilege with respect to his communications with Tacopina.

Levitt's piece contains further details and is well worth the read. Meanwhile, the lawsuit moves on. More information is hopefully forthcoming.

(NYPD Confidential: A Shootout Not at the OK Corral)


  1. Tacopina reliance on conspiracy theories should be quite telling. I wish to correct your good article. According to Kerik, as I understand it, Tacopina and Fischetti came under investigation for "fee-splitting" schemes but inside that investigation came a larger scheme, Bullseye - Kerik - that is why this Judge should ask questions and release the records - this needs to happen so the man can defendant himself

  2. Thanks for the info. Kerik can subpoena the records as part of the discovery process. Hopefully they're released. As someone recently remarked to me, sunlight is an excellent disinfectant.

  3. I believe in the May 21, 2014, NY Daily's News reported Tacopina's lawyer, "Judd Bernstein," replied to claim his perjury criminal threats within a civil case was okay by making this outrageous statement (which I feel proves he is either incompetent in his legal know how of the rules or was surprised Kerik's new lawyer called you on it - Hopefully you lose your law license for that threat , where in he expresses his absurdity by saying:

    “I know that lawyers in civil litigation often try to convince prosecutors to pursue criminal cases against an opposing party, and the purpose of this letter is to do just that,” Burstein wrote. “But this case is different.”

    Read more:

    Hey Judd, I am not sure where you learned to practice law, but the rules forbid what you are trying to do and admit and you may be the one going to jail, or facing sanctions - NOW, wouldn't that a funny a little worn cry baby snitch like you and the Adnois one :???

  4. As Len Levitt summarized in his latest June 2, 2014 article, yesterday, someone is "lying," Here is link to his article - - - - one thing about the NY Press corp., they do not like being jerked around and will not relent in their coverage. This onion will need to be peeled must be...we have a lawyer and a police commissioner who have duties to the public to tell the truth, yet, one of them is "lying"....The 2006/2007 alleged "investigation" of Tacopina's business records by the authorities will need to be unearthed and held to the sunshine of light so we can then Judge our beloved Police Commissioner fairly, who appears to be a serious as a heart attack in his 3 year old thought-out prosecution, done his way- This case has strong public implications and impacts all of our attorney-client privlege rights - - ding....ding....ding....May all the documents be released and may the bigger liar fall and be burned at the stake......Usher, more pop corn please