The $525,000 payment on Duke Cunningham's mortgage, the Sea-Doo Speedsters, the thousands of dollars of meals, the prostitutes, $12,000 worth of furniture... there's an "innocent explanation" for all of this, Brent Wilkes' lawyer Mark Geragos told a jury in his opening statement yesterday. Or as he put it
himself: "Every single one of these transactions they're alleging is a bribe has an innocent explanation they don't want you to hear." By our count
, that would be at least a couple dozen innocent explanations. And, boy, do we want to hear.
So it seems that Geragos is really going for the gold. Wilkes was just another defense contractor trying to make a living, he'll argue, and prosecutors have arbitrarily focused on him. Why? As Geragos argued
: "You're going to find that everyone's got a little ax to grind here, not least the government, who seem to want to make this a referendum on how Washington works." More than $700,000 worth of gifts and payments in, $90 million in defense contracts out. That's how Washington works. And Geragos aims to prove it. Don't forget that he's already issued subpoenas to a dozen members of Congress, with special focus
on five sitting lawmakers in particular.
From the opening statement, it's evident that another strategy of Geragos' will be to cast Mitchell Wade as the real
bad guy here, relying, it seems, on Cunningham's semi-literate letter
from prison to Marcus Stern, the reporter who broke the story. In that letter, other than complaining that Stern always focused on the bribery and not on the good things that Cunningham had achieved in his career (like
"Library Man of the Year"), Cunningham announced that "truth will come out and you will find out how liablist [sic] you have & will be." It was a stirring example of denial. And the root for how it all went wrong, Cunningham argued, was that "absolute devil" Mitch Wade.
Of course, Cunningham's anger might have had a lot to do with the fact that Wade had been the first to go to the feds. And in a subsequent interview
with the FBI, Cunningham gave a different story, detailing how he and Wilkes had hid various bribes in order not to arouse suspicion.
But that's Wilkes' story, and he's sticking to it. And he says that if prosecutors don't haul Cunningham out of jail to testify, then he's going to do it himself.
Let the show begin.