Former Representative Cunningham Pardoned By Trump
Wednesday, January 20, 2021
Photo by Lenny Ignelzi
Former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham was among 73 people pardoned by President Donald Trump hours before his term expires Wednesday.
Cunningham was sentenced in 2006 to eight years and four months in prison for his guilty pleas to conspiracy and tax evasion for taking $2.4 million in bribes in return for unduly influencing the awarding of Defense Department contracts. He was released in 2013.
After being incarcerated, Cunningham denied accepting bribes and said he regretted his plea.
Cunningham, a Republican, represented portions of San Diego County in Congress from Jan. 3, 1991 to Nov. 28, 2005, when he resigned.
Former US Attorney for the Southern District of California, Carol Lam, oversaw the prosecution of Cunningham. She told KPBS there was never any doubt about Cunningham's guilt.
“The evidence in this case was so strong that it just kept coming in faster and faster… and at the end of the day, there just wasn’t much question what the result should be.”
Lam also said Cunningham shouldn't have been pardoned.
“Somebody who held the position he held should certainly, certainly deserves to have this conviction on his record for all time, but practically speaking, I don’t think it gets him that much," she said.
Prior to politics, he flew an F-4 Phantom fighter jet for the U.S Navy during the Vietnam War.
The bribes were paid in a variety of methods, including checks totaling more than $1 million, cash, rugs, antiques, furniture, yacht club fees, boat repairs, moving costs and vacation expenses.
In return, Cunningham worked to influence the awarding of tens of millions of dollars in defense contracts, then-U.S. Attorney Carol Lam said.
The bribery, fraud and tax-evasion conspiracy plea involved:
— The purchase of Cunningham's home in Del Mar at an artificially inflated price by a defense contractor;
— the subsequent payoff of the mortgage of his new, multimillion-dollar home in Rancho Santa Fe by another defense contractor;
— a $200,000 down-payment by a third co-conspirator to enable Cunningham to purchase a condominium in Arlington, Virginia;
— the payment of the capital gains tax by the purchaser of Cunningham's Del Mar home;
— the purchase and maintenance by a defense contractor of a yacht, the "Duke-Stir," and a Rolls Royce for Cunningham; and
— payments by a defense contractor for a graduation party for Cunningham's daughter, jewelry, home furnishings and travel and hotel expenses.
As a result of the plea bargain, Cunningham agreed to forfeit more than $1.8 million in cash and real property.
In a statement issued early Wednesday Washington time by the Office of the Press Secretary, the pardon for Cunningham was strongly supported by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
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