Catching up With the Duke Cunningham Scandal

By Justin Rood

Feb 19, 2008 11:27am

Two and a half years after the feds busted then-Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., for bribery and corruption, the sprawling federal probe into the scandal rolls on.

Duke is safely behind bars, where he can no longer earmark millions in classified government funds for corrupt defense contractors (one admitted, one convicted), which formed the meaty heart of his saga.

But the cases of others whose fates came crashing down with Duke are still resolving themselves. The fate of Brent Wilkes, a former defense contractor convicted late last year of bribing Cunningham, has seen some recent developments that have sparked speculation.

Prosecutors last week said they were dropping all charges against Wilkes in a second case related to the scandal. That surprised some, coming just two months after the feds wrapped up what many considered a no-holds-barred prosecution of the San Diego businessman, who is awaiting sentencing. Prosecutors have asked for 25 years, which would be the harshest sentence doled out to any recent scandal figure.

Though the government’s lawyers never commented on their strategy, conventional wisdom held that they once considered Wilkes a possible key witness in their investigation. But he steadfastly refused to admit guilt and play the patsy, which explained for many why the government came down as hard as it did.

Which raises questions for some as to why they would suddenly go easy on Wilkes in his second trial, which revolves around favors he allegedly provided for former top CIA official Kyle "Dusty" Foggo and contracts Foggo illegally routed to Wilkes’ companies in return.

Here’s another curiosity: At the same time prosecutors announced they were dropping charges against Wilkes in the Foggo case, they reportedly said they had "recently uncovered" new evidence to support new charges against Foggo.

Where did the new evidence come from? Prosecutors did not respond to voicemail messages. Wilkes’ lawyer, Mark Geragos, did not comment.

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