Judge Disqualifies Bernard Kerik's Lawyer Due to Conflict of Interest

A federal judge disqualified a lawyer Thursday from representing former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik because of a potential conflict of interest.

Prosecutors had asked for the ruling in the criminal case against Kerik, arguing that defense lawyer Kenneth Breen was at meetings when Kerik gave his lawyers false information.

The potential conflict is "so severe that no remedial measure will cure it," U.S. District Judge Stephen Robinson said in his ruling from White Plains.

Kerik, a former Rudy Giuliani protege who was once President Bush's pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security, was indicted in November on wide-ranging charges including accepting $255,000 in renovations to his Bronx apartment from a company that was seeking city contracts.

The 16-count indictment also accused him of lying to the White House, filing false income tax returns, tampering with witnesses and avoiding the nanny tax. Kerik has pleaded not guilty.

Last year, in a related case, Kerik pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge in state court, admitting that the renovations to his Bronx apartment constituted an illegal gift from the construction firm.

In its bid to disqualify Breen, the government said a former Kerik lawyer was expected to testify that Breen was at meetings when Kerik gave his lawyers false information to present to the Bronx district attorney's office.

In a letter to the judge last year, U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia said there was no claim that Breen acted unethically or improperly, "only that the defendant did."

He asked the judge to appoint a new lawyer who would advise Kerik about Breen's potential conflicts of interest.

Breen had argued that removing him from the case would raise issues of fairness.