For Sale Sign on Congress.
Prosecutors cataloged his bribes as mundane—meals, travel, and hotel expenses; peculiar—buck knives and a lasershot simulator; audacious—moving expenses and payment of his capitol gains taxes; self indulgent—cars, yachts, homes, and an antique commode; and truly astonishing--$500,000 in two checks from a contractor. In total, Duke Cunningham has admitted to receiving over 2.4 million in bribes since 2000. When returning from a shopping trip with a contractor who had just purchased Cunningham $12,000 in antiques, Cunningham told the contractor he would make him “somebody.” The contractors company’s government contracts went from less than a million dollars a year to more than tens of millions per year. When a senior member of Cunningham’s staff questioned the purchase of a 1999 Suburban for only $10,000, Duke Cunningham slammed his hand on his desk and told the staffer to “stay the f--- out of my personal business." In an attempt to cover the obviously corrupt transaction, the staffer altered the DMV title to reflect an $18,000 sale price and ask Cunningham to pay the difference. Cunningham declined. The second portion of the memorandum details the great lengths Cunningham went to cover up his crimes. The final section explains why Cunningham should receive the maximum sentence. That Cunningham was the principal director of an extensive bribery, money laundering, and tax evasion scheme designed to enrich himself. That he alone decided who and how much they would pay for a government contract and how the money was to be concealed. It is on the basis of this stunning betrayal of trust that they recommended the maximum sentence.
Duke Cunningham was once a hero. He is a decorated veteran. His heroic feats as a combat pilot during the Vietnam War served as the basis of the Top Gun movie. He was elected to serve eight terms in Congress. As prosecutors stated, “he used his Congressional office to get rich. In doing so, Cunningham reneged on his obligation to execute his office with conscientious, loyal, faithful, disinterested, and unbiased service.” Cunningham’s attorney Lee Blalack called the prosecutors request for a ten year sentence “grossly excessive.” It seems to me that a “grossly excessive” sentence is appropriate for a “grossly excessive” crime.
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