Who paid for Cunningham's bribes? You did.
That’s the true meaning of today’s sentencing of defense contractor Mitchell Wade, who supplied former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham with $1.8 million in bribes.
Judge Ricardo Urbina sentenced Wade to 30 months in prison and, unbelievably, imposed a fine of only $250,000. If I’m reading the prosecution’s court filings correctly, that means the judge is allowing Wade to keep most of the wealth his corruption bought.
Prosecutors had asked for a much higher “significant” fine. In court filings, the government said the $250,000 fine Wade’s attorneys were seeking was “far too low” a penalty, noting that it’s only $16,000 more than the mandatory minimum penalty.
“Wade, whose company earned $150 million from Defense Department from 2002-2005, is still a wealthy man. He has the capacity to pay more, and he should pay more,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Howard Sklamberg wrote in a court filing.
Judge Urbina had the tricky task of balancing what prosecutors called Wade’s “mammoth acts of corruption” with the extraordinary assistance he provided the government in its investigation of Cunningham and others. The judge rewarded Wade for his cooperation with reduced prison time.
By failing to impose a significant fine and seize the ill-gotten gains, the judge is assuring Wade can pay his $2 million legal team at WilmerHale and still profit from his corruption.
And here I thought the criminal justice system was supposed to discourage crime.
How thoroughly disappointing, and what a message it sends. Crime pays. Particularly for those individuals simultaneously inhabiting the murky world of the reserve military and government contracting.