Duke Cunningham: My ‘Untold Story’

April 7, 2011 7:45 a.m.

In a rambling letter from his prison cell sent to TPM and other media outlets, former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA) writes that he never told the feds that he had sex with a prostitute “and the DOJ bastards know it,” that IRS agents and media reporters “remind me of ravening wolves,” and that he never should have agreed to a plea deal that put him behind bars.

The former California Republican is serving eight years in prison after he pleaded guilty to tax evasion, conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud and wire fraud in 2005. Now he’s claiming that there were no “bribes,” and that the only checks he received were reimbursements.

I wrote to Cunningham a few months ago to ask him what he thought of Attorney General Eric Holder’s push for prisoner re-entry reform and to get an update on how he’s been spending his time behind bars.

What I got back on Wednesday was a packet from Cunningham that featured a personalized response and a copy of “The Untold Story of Duke Cunningham” — a nine-page, typed, single-spaced monograph dated March 2011 apparently written by Cunningham himself. The monograph was attached to a copy of a March 17 letter to the federal judge who handled his case. That letter was also copied to numerous media outlets.In response to TPM’s questions, Cunningham wrote that his life “will be dedicated to prison & DOJ reform.”

“The United States has more more men & women in prison than any other nation including Russia and China,” he wrote. “The largest growing number of prisoners, women — 1-34 Americans are either on probation or in prison. The 95% conviction rate reached by threats of long sentences, intimidation, lies and prosecutorial abuse has got to be reckoned with now, not later.”

“The system to return inmates to society is a joke and until real change is made our children will do w/o a mom/dad that can provide for them after release,” Cunningham continued.

In the letter sent to a number of media outlets, Cunningham explains that he’s spent much of his time behind bars teaching GED courses to other inmates and has even tried his hand at paddle ball and softball on weekends. He describes himself as a “walking skeleton” when he took his plea deal back in 2005 and says he has refused media requests “in hopes the judicial process would eventually get at the truth, the whole truth and nothing but.”

“Perhaps it is time to end my silence and tell the untold story, at least to record it here for my family and friends before I take my last flight into the wild blue yonder,” the 69-year-old Vietnam-era fighter pilot writes.

He continues:


“I will soon pass my allotted ‘three score and ten years’ as described in the Good Book — and thank the Lord for each new day I am still able to share with family and dear friends. Strange but true, even at my age, soon into my 70’s, life still seems like it was when I flew my F-4 jet fighters in defense of our country over Vietnam and elsewhere – wondering I will live to see another day,” Cunningham writes.

“I never imagined then that I would later receive a phone call from U.S. President Ronald Reagan, urging me to run for the US Congress — much less that I would be re-elected 7 times — much of it serving on the Armed Services Committee making life and death decisions of the other young military men, women and their families who were also defending the Constitution of our nation as I did all those years,” he writes.

“Those who know my heart know that I am an earnest seeker of truth, who has taken a lifelong oath to defend the truth that sets us free from the lies told by those with a hidden agenda, some of whom are domestic enemies of our Constitution.”

Cunningham also touches on the shooting that nearly took the life of Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ). The same judge who handled his case is presiding over the case of shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner.

“A few days after this shooting rampage, Air Force One brought US President Barrack Hussein Obama to Tucson, along with some of his cabinet members to pay respect to the victims of this dreadful tragedy. We could see Air Force One as it came in for a landing a few miles north of the prison camp where I am writing these thoughts,” Cunningham writes.

“President Obama went to visit ‘Gabby’ and other survivors at the hospital. He also spoke at the Memorial Service at the University of Arizona campus — urging us all to tone down divisive discourse and create the kind of American government that 8 year old Christina Green wanted to believe in before she was shot and killed on that tragic day in Tucson at her neighborhood grocery parking lot,” he writes.

Cunningham writes that he too wants to believe in the kind of American government that Green believed in.

“I manned up to my errors in judgement, but I have also endured affliction for things I did not do, like other innocent souls, but somehow we carry on, believing as we must that the truth will ultimately prevail with those who know our hearts.”

Cunningham indicates that he did not knowingly and intentionally sign the plea because as he explained he “had never been in or trained for this battle ground” and “simply trusted my lawyers.”

“Today I know that was a mistake. First, the money amounts charged against me as bribes could have been proven completely false. I have recently received my 2000 and 2005 check registers that document that most of the alleged ‘bribes’ were in fact reimbursements. Black and white,” he writes.

“I can prove item by item that was in the Plea Agreement was not true, except I did accept antiques, furniture and carpets from Mitch Wade. They were NOT bribes. I signed the Plea only under the duress described, and the DOJ assurance that if I continued to cooperate in other cases, I would receive a 35% reduction in my sentence…after which I fully cooperated over several years, often in leg irons and belly chains, only to have the DOJ mislead me because I refused to twist the truth to fit their story against over defendants in other cases,” Cunningham writes.

He writes that he would have supported Wade’s defense program “even if the vicious Nancy Pelosi had wanted it.”

“So, clearly no bribe of any sort was involved in this matter. But the DOJ prosecutors … put a false spin on the true story — and in the Plea — to make their case,” he writes.

Cunningham also explains that it would have been impossible for him to have had sex with a prostitute.

“At no time did I ever state that I had sex with a prostitute in Hawaii, and the DOJ bastards know it. I told the prosecutors I would submit to any doctor or sex therapist etc to prove it was impossible. I had radical prostate surgery which left me almost impotent even with the use of ED medication after a year of recuperation,” he continues.

“Yet the DOJ put the worst possible spin on these allegations to humiliate me before family and constituents — without regard for the truth. When my prostate cancer returned, I had a full dose of radiation. I told them and the prostitute first that I was married and happily so. Second, I would not due to the possibility of disease and when she said he had ‘protection’ I told her and the DOJ that I could not get one even if I wanted to.”

“I recognize the need for zeal on the part of prosecutors — and I have championed the adversary system of justice in our land. But by my own firsthand experience, this is not justice, and it does not get us to the truth of things,” he writes.

“I marvel that federal Judges like the late John Rolls here is Tucson, and Judge Burns, are able to sort thru this much ‘official spin’ by the DOJ and come up with some semblance of truth and justice. I can only hope and pray that investigative journalists will also help in this effort, and not just take the government’s official spin — on Plea agreements obtained by threats and intimidation against family,” Cunningham writes.

Here’s how Cunningham concludes his letter:


You can check out the full packet here.

Additional reporting by Melissa Jeltsen.

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