Skip to comments.Judgment day for 'Duke' Cunningham (Disgraced ex-congressman receives 100 months prison sentence)
Posted on 03/03/2006 2:18:39 PM PST by NormsRevenge
SAN DIEGO Former U.S. Rep. Randy Duke Cunningham arrived in San Diego's federal courthouse Friday morning for sentencing on bribery charges, flanked by his lawyers and surrounded by a crowd of news crews.
He looked gaunt and shaky as he entered a courtroom filled to capacity, with the news media taking seats in the jury box as well as some of those in the audience.
Inside, he was greeted and hugged by well-wishers, including Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine. When Father Joe Carroll arrived, he and Cunningham hugged and clasped hands in greeting. Carroll, who runs a local shelter for the homeless, took a seat directly behind the disgraced ex-congressman.
Willie Driscoll, who with Cunningham won fame in a Navy F-4 Phantom II over North Vietnam, also was in the courtroom.
With prosecutors seeking the maximum 10-year sentence, the defense opened with a counter-argument: Six is enough.
What sentence is sufficient but not greater than necessary? said defense attorney Lee Blalack.
Cunningham wiped his eyes as Blalack described the ex-congressman's actions as quite egregious, but still argued for the shortest possible sentence, calling six years a substantial prison term.
This man has been humiliated by his own name, Blalack said. He is estranged by those he knows. He will go to jail. Under that scenario, no member of Congress can conclude that he got away.
Given his age, health, life service . . . six years does it.
Cunningham pleaded guilty Nov. 28 to tax evasion and conspiracy to commit bribery and honest-services fraud. He resigned from office the same day.
In their legal filings last month, prosecutors argued that he deserved the maximum sentence the harshest ever given a congressman because he used his congressional office to get rich.
The length, breadth and depth of Cunningham's crimes against the people of the United States are unprecedented for a sitting Member of Congress. So, too, should be his sentence, the federal prosecutors wrote.
For the better part of a decade, Cunningham, in effect, erected a 'for sale' sign upon our nation's capital.
In their written arguments, Cunningham's lawyers asked for the sentence of no more than six years, contending his health he has suffered from prostate cancer and other ailments probably gives him no more than seven years to live.
The defense cited Cunningham's military career and lengthy public service, and argued that he had already lost his home along with much of his belongings, and faces a massive tax bill over income he failed to report.
They also offered a statement from a psychiatrist who said Cunningham's corruption stemmed from an outsized ego and a mantle of invulnerability that enabled him to rationalize his actions.
Cunningham, a naval aviator, was a Vietnam war ace and a Top Gun pilot who rode that fame into political office. He was elected to Congress in 1990 and was elected again seven times, representing a large part of northern San Diego and much of the North County.
In 1998, he was named to the House Appropriations Committee, where he served on the defense subcommittee. He also sat on the House Intelligence Committee and was chairman of a subcommittee overseeing human intelligence analysis and counterintelligence.
Federal investigators began to investigate Cunningham's financial dealings after a Copley News Service story published in The San Diego Union-Tribune in June reported that a defense contractor bought Cunningham's Del Mar-area home and then sold it for a $700,000 loss.
Cunningham sold the house for $1.675 million in November 2003, but the buyer, defense contractor Mitchell Wade, never moved in and almost immediately put it back on the market. Wade sold it 261 days later for $975,000.
The federal investigation subsequently found that two contractors paid $2.4 million in bribes to Cunningham, who at one point created a bribe menu that spelled out the amount of money it would take to free up federal contracts.
Last Friday, Wade, 46, admitted in federal court he conspired to funnel more than $1 million in bribes to Cunningham.
Wade pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy and single counts of using interstate facilities to promote bribery and of election fraud. He faces a possible 11-year prison sentence and a fine.
The other contractor linked to the Cunningham bribes is Brent Wilkes, head of ADCS Inc., a defense contractor who lives in Poway.
Wilkes agreed to pay off a $525,000 mortgage on Cunningham's Rancho SantaFe home in exchange for $6 million in government funds, according to court documents.
When he pleaded guilty in November, Cunningham agreed to forfeit $1.8 million in bribes, his financial interest in the Rancho Santa Fe home he and his wife have since sold and a long list of antiques and other furnishings now to be auctioned off by the government.
Prosecutors say he also owes the IRS $1.57 million in back taxes, penalties and interest, although Cunningham and his lawyers dispute that amount.
Former Rep. Randy Duke Cunningham, center, is escorted by aides on his arrival at the federal courthouse downtown for sentencing.
10 years sounds good. Especially since federal prisons don't offer early parole.
An unbelievable betrayal of everything he fought for...and he did fight well for his country way back when. He let it go to his head and thought he was above the very principles he swore to uphold and defend. Very sad...but a time tested and well worn message to us all...power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Too bad he gave into the dark side...irrespective of his politcal positions. He dserves the stiffest penalty possible for his betrayal.
Sounds like he's sorry -- sorry he got caught. I'm sorry that an authentic war hero could do this; he didn't have to, congressfolk get a very nice salary, wonderful benefits and a huge pension.
I'd say he's cured of this particular "ailment"
...took a seat directly behind the disgraced ex-congressman.
I wonder if this publication has ever referred to the impeached former president the rapist in such a perjorative term.
It's notable that Cunningham doesn't have the wall of party supporters willing to overlook his lawlessness as did clinton.
I This is an enigma...I NEVER MET THE MAN, though have
voted for im in the past. I am sure he is sorry, they
all are after the deed is done...whatever is fair for
a penalty will not take the place of the disgrace, that
greed has designated for him...bye, bye, life goes on
and soon or sooner..another one will fall. Jake
He'll still receive his government pensions.
I never liked Cunningham and I always will.
Make him walk through past a line of citizens and let us spit on the disgusting pig.
Pulleeeeeezz... and we're supposed to feel sorry?
Cunningham got 8 years, 4 months.
100 Months in the pokey!
I believe President Bush has signed the law which will prevent that in the future, although I'm not sure. Regardless, it won't apply to Cunningham.
I once had the honor of meeting Duke in Pansacola. He came by to the the mural of his Phantom. Such a sad story.
All the same - Duke knows the deal - when you mess up you have to stand up and take it on the chin. Falling from honor does not mean you can't act like you know what honor means.
Thanks. 8 years, 4 months.
Wonder of he'll get sent to Nellis in North Las Vegas?
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