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"Today is the Day to Own Up"

POSTED: 01:00 PM ET, 02/20/2008 by The Editors

The sentencing of a California defense contractor closes another chapter in the long-running corruption case surrounding former Republican congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham. Brent R. Wilkes was convicted of showering Cunningham with more than $700,000 in perks -- including $500,000 for a mortgage, $100,000 for a yacht he never purchased, submachine-gun shooting lessons and the services of two prostitutes during a stay at a Hawaiian resort. A federal judge yesterday gave Wilkes 12 years in prison for bribery, conspiracy and fraud.

Wilkes irked U.S. District Judge Larry Burns by maintaining his innocence to the end. "If you were to do the right thing about this, today is the day to own up," the judge told Wilkes.

The former congressman, of course, is already serving an eight-year prison term for taking millions in bribes from Wilkes and others. Three others have pleaded guilty in the scandal, which got its start in 2005 when the San Diego Tribune and Copley News Service figured out that Cunningham had sold his California house at an inflated price to another defense contractor, Mitchell Wade, while helping Wade obtain lucrative business from the Pentagon. The two news organizations went on to share the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for their work.

Wade has pleaded guilty to bribing Cunningham. He testified against Wilkes and is awaiting sentencing.

The case was full of fascinating revelations about how Cunningham did business. The congressman even roughed out what prosecutors called a bribe memo, listing how much he'd need to be paid to secure certain contracts for his friends.

By The Editors |  February 20, 2008; 1:00 PM ET
Previous: D.C. Tax Scam Grows | Next: Investigations Elsewhere

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I don't understand how these sentences are so light for such serious crimes. The more profit made, the lower the jail-time. It seems the lesson to criminals is "Aim High."

Posted by: Sean | February 22, 2008 4:10 PM

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