Briber Could Be Free During Appeal, Judge Rules

By Justin Rood

Apr 1, 2008 2:24pm

The California man found guilty of bribing a former U.S. congressman could be released from jail while he fights his conviction.

Last November a jury found Brent Wilkes guilty of 13 felony counts related to a scheme in which he gave more than $600,000 in cash and gifts to former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., in exchange for business contracts with the federal government worth millions.

Late last week, a federal appeals court ordered Wilkes released during his appeal, if he meets conditions to be set by a lower court. Wilkes had been free during his trial because he posted $2 million bail. His appeal will be handled by a public defender because he says he can’t afford an attorney.

Wilkes has been in prison since last month, when a federal judge sentenced him to 12 years. The other man prosecutors have accused of bribing Cunningham with cash and gifts, Mitchell Wade, is cooperating with the investigation and has not seen the inside of a jail cell. 

Last month, Cunningham marked the second anniversary of his incarceration; a judge sentenced him to eight years and four months in March 2006.

Wilkes isn’t the only one unhappy with his sentence. Prosecutors had asked for Wilkes to get as many as 25 years behind bars, and have signaled they may challenge his sentence.

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