June 6, 2014

New Kerik Complaint Ratchets Up Charges

The nasty, and very personal, litigation between Bernie Kerik and high-profile lawyer Joe Tacopina has this week morphed into something extra-special for courthouse observers (or at least me). The newest claims unveiled by Bernie earlier this week have added several new plot twists, including some salacious allegations about sexual escapades, drug abuse, and bombshell civil RICO claims against Tacopina.

Background: it's no secret that Bernie Kerik -- former NYPD commissioner and almost-head of Homeland Security turned federal felon -- recently launched a jihad against his former lawyer and friend, Joseph Tacopina, claiming, in simple terms, that Tacopina ducked out of a federal investigation by snitching on Bernie. In the process, Bernie alleges, Tacopina coughed up attorney-client confidences, committed malpractice, and was an all-around no-goodnik. These claims were offered in a federal lawsuit (filed in NJ and then transferred to federal court in Manhattan) and a grievance complaint to the local bar. These claims also pale in comparison to what Bernie is now alleging.

Tacopina responded immediately with a lawsuit against Bernie and two reporters from the Daily News. He has since dropped the journalists from the suit. He also moved to dismiss the complaint and then moved for sanctions, arguing that the factual claims were falsely presented and the legal claims time barred or otherwise without merit. They were aggressive filings and Tacopina appeared to be in control of the litigation. 

But then, earlier this week, Bernie unveiled a recording he had made of a conversation between he and Joe.  A conversation Tacopina had said had never taken place. And then Bernie filed an amended complaint (a copy is readily available through this online New York Daily News article). The allegations are pretty staggering.

For instance, Kerik claims that Tacopina's firm is a criminal enterprise engaged in extortion and fraud. Kerik details sexual liaisons by Tacopina that he allegedly engaged in as a means to promote himself through the media. More precisely, Kerik's complaint alleges: 
14.   The principle purpose of the Tacopina Firm was to generate money for its members, partners and associates. This purpose was implemented by members, partners, and associates of the Tacopina Firm through various criminal activities, including extortion, wire fraud, and obstruction of justice. The members, partners, and associates also furthered the enterprise’s activities by threatening economic and reputational injury to anyone who stood in their way. They also rewarded those members of the press who wrote positive articles about Tacopina and the Tacopina Firm by giving them secret information about their clients, without authorization, and to their client’s detriment. 
15.   Although the primary purpose of the Tacopina Firm was to generate money for its members, partners, and associates, the members, partners, and associates at times used the resources of the firm as a vehicle to settle personal grievances, manipulate the media, and present a false public image to protect the reputation of the enterprise, as well as its members, partners, and associates, and others. 
16.   In order to advance the money making goals of the enterprise, Defendant Tacopina made significant efforts to create a grossly exaggerated public image of his skill as an attorney. 
17.   In November 2005, the Tacopina Firm was retained to represent Melanie McGuire in the New Jersey criminal case known as the “Suitcase Murder.” The case received significant media attention and Defendant Tacopina used the case as an opportunity to boost his legal career. During the 1 ½ year litigation Tacopina began to engage in an extra-marital affair with Individual A 2, a producer from a major national television network. At the time, Individual A was married to a man who was an acquaintance of Tacopina’s. The two began their illicit liaisons at the Heldrich Hotel in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
18.   On information and belief, Defendant Tacopina attempted to take advantage of his illicit relationship with Individual A, as well as her high ranking position within the news organization to orchestrate a public relations campaign that falsely inflated his own accomplishments and skills in order to further the business of the Tacopina Firm. Tacopina’s target objective was to try to cause Individual A to compromise her journalistic integrity in an attempt to insulate Tacopina from derogatory coverage of his poor performance in the failed defense of Melanie McGuire, and the large scale dissemination of deceptively positive press coverage. Tacopina also attempted to leverage his relationship with Individual A to gain employment with the network as an “independent” legal analyst. 
19.   Defendant Tacopina also carried on a long term affair with Individual B, a cable news television personality. Defendant Tacopina used his relationship with Individual B to get himself repeated appearances on Individual B’s show and others, as well as to ensure that he received excessively positive treatment in the network’s coverage.
There's more. Lots more. The complaint charges that Tacopina has engaged in a pattern of racketeering since 2006 and asks the Court to dissolve his firm and award treble damages. In addition to claiming that Tacopina's cooperation with federal prosecutors was the "but for" cause of Kerik's conviction, Bernie also says Tacopina abused prescription pain medication, maintained fraudulent business records, and attempted to bludgeon reporters into compliance or silence by threatening lawsuits. 

Tacopina's attorney, Judd Burstein, told the Daily News that the newest allegations are "outrageous" and that the factual claims are "tremendously shocking" and "false." Burstein called the underlying racketeering cause of action "a ridiculous theory, more ridiculous than his previous theories." Not surprisingly, Burstein promises that he will challenge these claims through motion practice, and I have no doubt this will happen shortly. 

Whether Bernie has the goods to make out a RICO case remains to be seen. Mere speculation won't do Kerik much good, and the absence of any substantive evidence will leave him in a very bad place in terms of Tacopina's counter claims for defamation. But if there's fire under the smoke, then Joe Tacopina's in a precarious position. I have no skin in the game; I don't know either party and don't really care how it all shakes out in the end. The destination isn't all that interesting, it's the trip that's the fun part.

I had previously written that the lawsuit as originally filed was great theatre (see, e.g., here, here, and here). It turns out I was wrong. It was merely the warm up act for Kerik's amended pleading, the filing of which could be characterized as going nuclear. 

A lot of local New York lawyers, no doubt including well established members of the criminal defense bar, are watching the proceedings with a combination of amusement and amazement. Certainly I am.


  1. Mike, I feel this was a great summary and fair-minded - my quess is that Tacopina is very scared based upon my feelers out there and "Judd" may also be in trouble for aiding and abetting alleged criminal fraud and unethical threatening acts by subtrfuge. In fact, from my readings of the A-Rod lawyer latest Motion to Dismiss (without any discovery) he conceeds at this time the allegations against him are truthful......I believe that says it all - How is the line? --- When you don't have the facts, argue the law? Any when you don't have the law, argue the facts. I see it as Bernie having some good facts and good law and if the A-Rod lawyer hid things over his alleged unethical past, he may waive any statutes of limits because you can't hide the alleged fraud and then claim ha ha, you lose, statutues blown - he will look foolish - which, is how he is staring to look - as if he has something he wishes to hide - it's a great story

  2. The Dogs Days of Summer - So, now Melanie McGuire wants to know if her A-Rod attorney was on pain medication and provided incompetant representation.....citing the Kerik amended complaint - what is signficant here, in my opinion is, not whether we can trust Melanie but the fact that the NJ Judge and Prosecutor agreed to allow for the investigation to work its way through. In my opinion, that makes this a public event and puts more pressure on Bernie's Federal Judge to keep this in the light of day....If Bernie is telling the truth, the A-Rod lawyer, may have a lot of answer for...I believe some say, in the inner hallways of the Middlesex County Court they were not impressed with the brash attorney who TV appearances led to more and more lucrative business for himself - I suggest we stop eating the buttered pop corn and switch to the Suger Daddies........more to come

    1. Ineffective assistance of counsel is a very tough standard. Defendants are not entitled to great representation from their lawyers. They're not even entitled to good representation. As long as it is barely competent, it is usually more than adequate. Meaning, you can't blame a girl for trying, but McGuire has a slim chance of success, at best. But, yes, if Kerik's allegations have legs, then this is just beginning for Joe.

  3. I agree with your fair based summary. Melanie has a very tough case to unravel and no one realistically believes that she will find a technicality to let her off. However, she is seeking relief and in her life and possible inside prison and anything can help. She also deserves due process like everyone else. I commend Judge in NJ for his fair-mindedness and the prosecutor. As we learned with Bernie, fighting the system once you are already in jail is a huge mountain to climb. However, if I recall, there were some weird issues and accusations in her case. One of those accusations, if I recall, was the allegation the defense team which the A-Rod attorney was co-counsel on tried to bribe or somehow influence a prisoner witness to give false testimony. That witness was considered not credible, or lacking trustworthiness. However, what was strange about that story was that the inmate claimed the defense counsel of which the A-Rod lawyer was a part of supposedly offered him favors if he helped them win the case. This is the kind of inappropriate behavior that keeps coming up, now, coupled with drug or pain killer abuse charges. "IF" these charges are bonafide this could spell trouble for the A-Rod lawyer who has acted erratically at times by threatening almost everyone with knee jerk lawsuits, accused of trying to start a fist fight inside the Court of the A-Rod- MLB-Yankees case with another lawyer reported in the Press and overall reported issues of not playing in the sandbox nicely with the other children....Of course, Melanie has the option of filing her own disciplinary complaint with the NJ/NY Grievance Committees and asking them to subpoena the A-Rod lawyer for his medical records if there is a reasonable basis to do so. Right now, as many see it, she may have such a basis and the A-Rod lawyer may have some explaining to do. They have acted as tuff guys and denounce anyone who objects to their tactics which, I feel, may be counter-productive - REMEMBER - these are the type of lawyers who will do anything and say anything to, how did Judd put it, find or file criminal charges in a civil case or something to that affect. BEWARE, what comes around goes around and when you place yourself on such a might royal throne, sometimes, you fall off and Humpty Dumpty cannot be put back together again. I admire your coverage of the issues which are of great public interests.

    1. Thanks for the kind words. McGuire's case is really distinct from Kerik's. He isn't challenging his conviction. She is, and will have to show that Tacopina's errors were the cause of her conviction. It's a tough standard. Maybe the test under NJ state law is more lenient, I don't know. But she's got a tough road ahead of her.

  4. I agree again. Who knows, maybe Melanie can do some good for the world if she helps others who may have been caught up in this possible harmful behavior, if, it is true. In addition, whether or not it helps her or anyone else, depending upon the allegations and what is uncovered, abusing pain killers may be a criminal offense depending on the facts and in any event, the A-rod lawyer's clients deserve the truth - not press headlines and to the extent Tacopina's denies these charges , if he is caught lying, and someone is seemingly lying, he may be opening himself up to real trouble and his best strategy, in my humble opinion, if this is an issue, is to stop any cover-up, fire Judd and the hard ball tactics, check himself into therapy and apologize to any of his clients, especially the one who 'may' have been abused or short changed. Again, I appreciate your comments and you seem to be playing this right down the middle, which I respect and agree with. Last thing, the Judges in this matter should stand up and demand the records be released and some public accountability and let this process go in whatever direction it must, enough is enough and it is time for the system to work fairly for all of us. Thanks again for your well poised legal comments !


    For those of us in the public back seat, the court proceedings make little sense. It's crazy. You have Kerik, sporting a hairless scalp that would make Mr. Clean sue him for trademark infringement, there is only one Mr. Clean, and with Bernie's prison lover publishing his nasty love letters to coincide with Court events, either Bernie ws really hard up in the slammer, or, this was a set up chick to keep tabs on Kerik and get "dirt" on him. This strange prison love affair is just bizarre, although, does Bernie privates really swell up like a dob like he says...?

    Then you have the rat. A lawyer so sneaky, Len Levitt, actually says he was told by Fischetti, the A-Rod lawyer was wired for sound....Didn't the FEDS use Big Pussy like that in the Sopranos when he got into trouble and was popping pills?
    To date no one has denied any of the Kerik allegations, maybe there is no defense or they are playing motions out. I don't know.

    There are no seemingly "clean" characters and the FEDS, according to the Press and the litigants, keep making threats without any supervision - for what? What secrets do they want to hide? once you are sued, there should be no secrecy defenses - When will we see a discovery schuled in these cases? If the FEDS think Tacopina is a liability, which he is, well, lets hope he meets a better fate than BIG PUSSY - allow discovery and lets get to it Judge - justice delayed is justice denied!

    These are my mere humble opinions as a voice from the public !

  6. I despise a lawyer who, as a very well respected news journalist wrote in a column, wore a recording device to set up his own client - that what's you call saving your own ass and b.s.. Got to hand it to those clever bulls. But that is not the "bull" I wish to speak of. That is to be decided yet. In this article, we will bypass the Charcoal dyed hair of the Jim Carey liar-liar lawyer and his team of liars - who - will know very well, or should know, they are passing falsehoods but in this piece, I need to say, for now forget that, I need to say, what is wrong with you Bernie? I mean really, what is wrong with you...?

    If anyone wants to see how unfit Mr. Kerik appears to be to be in a position of authority, one, only need to read the absolutely vulgar, disgusting and inappropriate "handwritten" letters from his prison chaser gal pal who, to some, may be considered another set up artist for this poor slob. In his letters Mr. Kerik, a man with a spotlight on that bald dome, seemingly thinking with the wrong head, goes off on kinky sex and how he wants to ram fingers in her privates and to have his d@ck swell up like a dog...." This is a former 911 police commissioner speaking like this.

    So, what is going on here? Is this woman a con-artist, an FBI Informant, or is Bernie a person who may seriously need counsel and to realize he is no longer with the police. Moreover, the prisoner chaser reported Kerik was getting puff pieces from Rosanna Scotto. Scotto, I have read, comes from a family of strong arm thugs, mob murders, and long shore men corruption. I guess the news stations do not run that part of the biography, too bad, its a piece of history of why the FEDS do not like Police Commissioners who get chummy with the crooks.

    Kerik needs to stop playing games. If you have the goods on the A-Rod lawyer, lets see the facts. As for the A-rod lawyer he should be locked in the prison cell with Kerik and to let Bernie throw him in a "submission hold" while the prison gal records the scene it for the rest of us - I take it her life is mostly reliant on Kerik for cheap thrills despite the gross letters she published, which may be a privacy violation. Frankly, in my opinion, which is what this is all about - I see a very sad and weird cast of characters that have not served the public honorably or faithfully


    The NY Times reports a new drug for Baldness. Here is the headline:

    New Drug Helps Some Bald Patients Regrow Hair

    By PAM BELLUCKAUG. 17, 2014

    Just think of the possibilities. If Bernie could sport a full bushy set of hair, especially in Court, he would be on an equal playing field with the A-Rod lawyer who seems quite hairy. Bernie could even regrow his stache back in and maybe sport a pony tail like that fake hippie Ron Kuby or end is career like former President Johnson did, with a pony tail and good smoke...The hair drug is called ruxolitinib and it looks very promising. Go Bernie Go!

  8. There are some funny comments - brilliant - so I hear this gangster lawyer is looking to flee the country and run from his malpractice litigation. What crumb bum. Mr. Tacopina's alleged extortion-like tactics is coming unglued and he knows it. Mr. Tacopina feels everyone is wrong accept for him. This guy seems to have run without abiding by any rules that govern attorney behavior. I suppose there are other clients that were actually threatened by Mr. Tacopina and other conflicts of interests. How and why the NY Departmental Disciplinary Committee ("DDC") sits there and allows this to go on is simply bizarre. They have refused to uphold their duty to protect the public from this alleged con artist. I am sure the "DDC" has claimed a conflict of interest and has deferred is b.s. This agency has whitewashed complaint and there is information to suggest related attorney hired members and ex-officials from the DDC to allow these accused lawyers to walk away from investigations because they know who the "go-to" people at the DDC are - if Tacopina is looking to flee, Parlatore is a hero and from what I seen he seems to make a lot of very logical assertions - seems like Wackopina is scared - like a rat- he is looking for a hole to hide in is day will be coming soon - this is a key case and I hope it gets amble coverage

  9. Yeah, yeah yeah....Mr. Tacopina's make-believe unblemished 22 year old career without any disciplinary complaints, now, that is a funny one, did his publicist write that for him....? It seems the question really comes down is whether this lawyer has all some of his memory and whether they alleged drug abuse allegations reported in the NY Daily News, who stand by their reporting, has affected his thinking. He seems more and more paranoid. How many "defamation" lawsuits are you willing to file until someone sues you for a class frivilious litigation? Does he think there is a government conspirarcy out to get him and his client A-Rod ? Come...come.....now , no the dog catcher is not out with his net......but we plead that you stay in NYC ...."Fun City".....we love you!