OCTOBER 18, 2007
Testimony in the trial of a prominent defense contractor accused of bribing a jailed congressman has resembled a sleazy soap opera with sordid details of the lawmaker engaging with prostitutes in a hot tub at a lavish Hawaiian resort.
Even the hookers testified before federal prosecutors rested their case this week in the San Diego courtroom. On trial is the politically-connected contractor, Brent Wilkes, who has been charged with 25 counts of bribery, conspiracy, fraud and money laundering.
Wilkes has served as a Republican presidential and gubernatorial campaign finance chairman and he is being tried for bribing convicted Republican Representative Randy â??Dukeâ? Cunningham with a steady flow of cash and perks ranging from a fancy jet boat to the services of prostitutes in exchange for lucrative government contracts.
Cunningham already pleaded guilty to accepting $2.4 million in kickbacks and is serving an eight-year federal prison sentence in a facility near Tucson Arizona. The veteran congressman admitted taking the bribes in exchange for helping Wilkes secure nearly $100 million in federal contracts.
Witnesses have testified that for years Wilkes bribed Cunningham with fancy meals, gifts and trips as well as sexual escapades. Some of the gifts included computers and navigation software for the lawmakerâ??s boat, Super Bowl tickets, golf outings and meals worth more than $150,000.
A pair of prostitutes testified this week about their two days of work during a $20,000 Hawaiian trip intended to â??show Duke a good time.â? One said that Cunningham fed her grapes and smoked cigars before taking her up to a bedroom in the private suite. She also said that Cunningham tipped her between $50 and $80.
The entertaining courtroom drama continues this week when the defense begins presenting its case. If convicted Wilkes faces up to two decades in prison.
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