FRANKLIN LAKES, N.J. (PIX11) – A radically thinner Bernard Kerik — the former NYC police commissioner once nominated to be Homeland Security secretary — returned home from federal prison Tuesday afternoon, three years after he was sentenced to jail time for tax fraud and lying.
Kerik waved to the assembled media from a distance, before giving big hugs to his wife, Hala, their two daughters, and Kerik’s older son, Joseph, who is a Newark, N. J., police officer.
Kerik was sentenced to four years in prison in February 2010, not long after he pleaded guilty to eight felony charges, including lying during a White House background check.
It was a huge fall for the one-time NYPD commissioner who was raised on the tough streets of Paterson, N.J. — after he survived a childhood marred by a drug-addicted mother who worked as a prostitute, a mom who was murdered when Kerik was 9-years-old.
Kerik later served in the U.S. Army, became a decorated NYPD narcotics detective, and then hooked up with New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in the 1990s — and Kerik watched his own career take a meteoric rise.
Kerik was credited with cleaning up gang violence as commissioner at the New York City Department of Corrections.
In 2000, Giuliani appointed Kerik the city ‘s 40th police commissioner, and Kerik was in that post when terrorists in jets attacked the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. Kerik had to dodge falling debris.
At the request of then President George W. Bush, Kerik went to Iraq to build up the National Police there, after the U.S.-led invasion.
In December 2004, Bush nominated Kerik to be secretary of Homeland Security. But Kerik was forced to withdraw a week later, amid revelations he had hired an undocumented worker as a nanny.
Later, Kerik faced an ethics probe in the Bronx for allowing a mob-connected contracting company to do $250,000 in renovations on his Riverdale apartment, in exchange for influence-peddling.
On November 5, 2009, Kerik pleaded guilty to tax fraud and lying in a Washington, D.C.-based case.
His wife of 15 years told PIX 11 at her doorstep Tuesday, before Kerik arrived: “It’s one of the happiest days of our lives. He ‘s coming home.”
But there was no sign of Giuliani, the godfather to Kerik’s two youngest daughters.