Duke to Judge: "You can only push a man so far, your honor"
The gigantic ego that is former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham has written an angry letter to his sentencing judge, complaining that the IRS is “killing” him and his family by seizing his remaining savings. Cunningham insists that as a highly decorated veteran, he deserves far better.
Writing from his minimum security Arizona prison, Cunningham tells Judge Larry Burns that he never would have pleaded guilty to taking bribes from a defense contractor and evading taxes in 2005 had he known the IRS — which he refers to at one point as the “KGB IRS” — would “renig” (sic) on the agreement and “keep me in poverty for the rest of my life.”
The IRS has taken everything I have worked for during my nearly 70 years. They have taken over or we have paid over 2.75 million dollars in assets, cash homes, cars, earnings and retirement. After 40 years teaching, my wife is living hand to mouth & staying in her 2-bedroom grandmother’s home. You can only push a man so far your honor. As one of the most highly decorated veterans in the history see note of this nation and a lifetime of service yes I made mistakes but that does not include killing me and my family.
Judge Burns responded to Cunningham in a letter dated Aug. 4, explaining that the money confiscated from Cunningham’s retirement and congressional pension was seized by the IRS to collect back taxes owed on the bribes he received in 2003 and 2004.
Duke’s defense attorney, K. Lee Blalack, had no comment.
The IRS found that Cunningham owed more than $1.13 million in back taxes, penalties and interest. The IRS is collecting this in 686 installments of $1,647 seized from Cunningham’s congressional and navy retirement benefits, his Social Security check, and his savings account, which contained $84,423.64.
Cunningham must also pay an additional $1.8 million in restitution to the IRS.
In the letter, Duke also accuses prosecutors in San Diego of lying over the reasons why he was never called to testify at the 2007 trial of defense contractor Brent Wilkes, who was convicted regardless of bribing Cunningham with cash, luxury travel and prostitutes. Wilkes is out on bond and playing poker while he appeals his 12-year sentence.
Duke’s missive to the judge follows his unsuccessful effort earlier this year to have his 100 month sentenced reduced for the “substantial assistance” he provided to the government. Defense lawyers say this assistance includes Duke’s willingness to phone to a co-conspirator, Thomas Kontogiannis, in calls that were recorded by the FBI and a willingness to testify at Wilkes’ trial.
In a July 28, 2008 letter to Blalack, U.S. Attorney Karen P. Hewitt acknowledged that Duke and his attorneys met repeatedly with federal authorities. Prosecutors say that they too did their best to extract substantial assistance from Cunningham. “Time and time again, however, he fell short of this goal,” prosecutors wrote.
Part of the problem was Cunningham’s inability to tell the truth without exaggerating, embellishing or minimizing his own conduct:
Moreover, Mr. Cunningham’s efforts were greatly tempered by the fact that many of our meetings with him were necessitated by his apparent retreat from the factual basis of his own plea agreement. See e.g., Letter to Wayne Winters, dated May 2, 2006, (“not all of what the press claimed was true or what I had to plead to — But [I] had to take the whole plea or nothing.”) At the opposite end of the spectrum, we were concerned that he would embellish facts if he thought doing so would improve his prospects for a sentencing reduction, as he did on at least one occasion…. In addition, his lack of candor before and after his plea (one example of which was the $50,000 in cash he left for his wife on the eve of his sentencing hearing) and the egregiousness of his crimes, presented the real risk that whichever side called him as a witness would be irreversibly tainted by such association. This may explain why Wilkes did not call him either, notwithstanding his counsel’s promise to do so.
Back to post This is yet another example of Cunningham’s well-known propensity to exaggerate his own accomplishments. He is NOT one of the most highly decorated veterans in U.S. history. He is not among the 3,446 recipients of the Medal of Honor, the highest award given for valor in combat. He received the Navy Cross, the second highest such honor.
Interesting–thanks for reporting on this. Mr. Cunningham appears too stupid to be able to leverage his knowledge of the case and to give an honest account of the events. He also doesn’t realize how easy it is to see through his exaggerations and lies and how discrediting it is to himself. An honest testimony of the events to Federal officials is what would help reduce his sentence.
It would also help prosecute Mr. Wilkes, who is the brains behind this matter. Mr. Wilkes has been clever enough to stay out of prison all these years, although he’s the one who initially instigated the bribes.