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Prosecutors seek 10 year term for Cunningham

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February 19, 2006

Prosecutors sought the maximum 10-year sentence against former U.S. Rep. Randy Cunningham, citing a "bribe menu" in which the decorated Vietnam veteran detailed what a defense contractor must pay in exchange for Pentagon business.

Court documents filed late on Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California in San Diego, contain previously undisclosed details of the Republican congressman’s crimes, including taking $2.4 million in bribes.

"For the better part of a decade, Cunningham, in effect, erected a ‘for sale’ sign upon our nation’s capital," U.S. Attorney Carol Lam wrote in her sentencing motion.

The sentencing papers contain a photocopy of a "bribe menu" on Cunningham’s official stationery in which he listed what a military contractor needed to pay to obtain various levels of defense appropriations.

In exchange for $16 million in government contracts, Cunningham asked for title to a $140,000 boat.

The eight-term congressman, a Vietnam War pilot and former "Top Gun" naval flight instructor, pleaded guilty in November to felony charges of bribery, fraud and tax evasion.

His sentencing was scheduled for March 3.

The case is one of several scandals over the past year to hit Republicans, who have controlled Congress for more than a decade. President George W. Bush has labeled Cunningham’s crimes outrageous and said he should "pay a serious price."

From 1999 until he resigned from Congress in November, Cunningham was chairman of the House Subcommittee on Human Intelligence Analysis and Counterintelligence and a member of other committees where he could influence many contracts.

The prosecutor asks the judge to order Cunningham to pay an outstanding tax obligation of $1.6 million. As part of his plea deal, he agreed to forfeit $1.8 million and give up any of his proceeds on the sale of a Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. mansion.

The bribes Cunningham demanded ran from meals, hotels and travel to hunting knives and a lasershot simulator system. One bribe paid Cunningham’s capital gains taxes on a prior bribe, the filing said. Checks were made payable to Top Gun Enterprises Inc., Cunningham’s military memorabilia business.

He also received luxury vehicles, yachts, homes, an antique Louis Philippe commode, Persian rugs and large cash transfers.

Lawyers for Cunningham asked for a six-year sentence. They wrote that, because the 64-year-old has had two bouts with prostate cancer, his life expectancy is no more than seven years. Any lengthy prison term "would likely be a death sentence," it said.