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Archive for Saturday, March 4, 2006

Former California congressman gets 8-year corruption sentence

March 4, 2006

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— Former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who collected $2.4 million in homes, yachts, antique furnishings and other bribes on a scale unparalleled in the history of Congress, was sentenced Friday to eight years and four months in prison, the longest term meted out to a congressman in decades.

Cunningham, who resigned from Congress in disgrace last year, was spared the 10-year maximum by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns but was immediately taken into custody.

Cunningham also was ordered to pay $1.8 million in restitution for back taxes. He must forfeit an additional $1.85 million for cash bribes he received, plus hundreds of thousands from the sale of a Rancho Santa Fe mansion.

Cunningham, 64, accepted money and gifts including a Rolls-Royce and $40,000 Persian rugs from defense contractors and others in exchange for steering government contracts their way and other favors.

Former U.S. Congressman Randall "Duke" Cunningham, center,  is escorted by aides as he arrives at the federal courthouse in San Diego Friday March 3, 2006 for sentencing on his conviction for bribery and tax evasion.

Former U.S. Congressman Randall "Duke" Cunningham, center, is escorted by aides as he arrives at the federal courthouse in San Diego Friday March 3, 2006 for sentencing on his conviction for bribery and tax evasion.

Federal prosecutors sought the maximum and his attorneys asked for mercy, but Cunningham, choking up as he addressed the judge, focused on accepting blame. "Your honor, I have ripped my life to shreds due to my actions, my actions that I did to myself," he said.

"I made a very wrong turn. I rationalized decisions I knew were wrong. I did that, sir," Cunningham said.

Much thinner than when he pleaded guilty in November - he said he has gone from 265 pounds to 175 pounds since June - Cunningham had asked to see his 91-year-old mother one last time before going to prison, but was denied.

The scale of his wrongdoing surpasses anything in the history of Congress, according to official Senate and House historians. "In the sheer dollar amount, it's unprecedented," Deputy House Historian Fred W. Beuttler said Friday.

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