Bribed Congressman jailed for eight years

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The Independent US

By David Usborne in New York

A judge in California has sentenced a former California congressman to eight years in prison for accepting bribes in Washington, the longest prison term ever handed down to a serving or recently serving US representative in modern history.

Randy Cunningham, a former ace pilot in the Vietnam war, pleaded guilty to multiple charges of corruption last November, when he also resigned his position. Prosecutors said he received bribes worth around $2.4m (£1.4m), including a Rolls-Royce, after steering Pentagon contracts to friendly defence contractors.

"I have ripped my life to shreds due to my actions that I did to myself," Cunningham told the judge at his sentencing hearing in San Diego. Choking with emotion, he added: "I made a very wrong turn. I rationalised decisions I knew were wrong."

The sentence was short of the 10 years requested by prosecutors, who said that his misconduct was unparalleled for its "depth, breadth and length". Pleading for a shorter term, defence lawyers said Cunningham was unwell and had only seven years to live.

Judge Larry Alan Burns, however, turned down a request by Cunningham that he should be allowed to see his 91-year-old mother one last time before being taken to prison.

Cunningham had represented his southern California district for 15 years. He was found out last year when a local paper reported that a defence firm, MZM Inc, had bought his luxury home for a price inflated by more than $700,000.

The president of the same firm, Mitchell Wade, has since admitted also giving him a 42ft yacht, cash, antiques and meals in return for preference in contract awards.

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