April 6 2011 12:00 AM

Imprisoned Congressman releases 10 pages of his prison journal

Randall "Duke" Cunningham, a former San Diego congressman currently serving an eight-year sentence in a federal lock-up, has released the first 10 pages of his personal prison journal. He says the account will tell the true story behind his guilty plea in the high-profile corruption case. 

The 10-page excerpt is attached to a March 17 letter to Judge Larry A. Burns, who presided over the case. The letter was also sent to several media outlets, including San Diego CityBeat


In the letter, Cunningham says that since the judge has unequivocally declared his case closed, despite Cunningham's requests for reconsideration, he's now ready to share his tale with the media that have "inundated" him with inquires (more than 40 outlets over seven years). At times, Cunningham seems optimistic that he will one day return to public life. At other points, the 69-year-old cancer patient confronts his own mortality.

"Perhaps it is time to end my silence and tell the untold story, at least to record it here for my family and friends before I take my last flight into the wild blue yonder," the former Vietnam War combat pilot writes in the opening paragraphs of what he has titled 'The Untold Story of Duke Cunningham.'

Cunningham notes that Burns is also the judge in the case of Jared Lee Loughner, who's facing prosecution after allegedly killing six people, including a federal judge, and wounding U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, during a shooting rampage in Tucson. Cunningham is currently imprisoned in the Satellite Prison Camp at the federal penitentiary in Tucson.

"A few days after this shooting rampage, Air Force One brought US President Barrack Hussein Obama to Tucson, along with some of his cabinet members to pay respect to the victims of this dreadful tragedy," he writes in his journal. "We could see Air Force One as it came in for a landing, a few miles north of the prison camp where I am writing these thoughts. President Obama went to visit 'Gabby' and other survivors at the hospital. He also spoke at the Memorial Service at the University of Arizona campus - urging us all to tone down divisive discourse and create the kind of American government that 9 year old Christina Green wanted to believe in before she was shot and killed on that tragic day in Tucson at her neighborhood grocery parking lot.

"I also want to believe in that kind of American government - for which I also took a few bullets over the years.  And I want my children to know that I did my best to uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies, as I have sworn to do most all my life. I have stood before national leaders to receive honors and other awards of valor - but I have also stood before a judge to answer for my shortcomings as a Congressman. I manned up to my errors in judgment, but I have also endured affliction for things I did not do, like other innocent souls, but somehow we carry on, believing as we must that truth will ultimately prevail with those who know our hearts."

His journal chronicles how he was a "walking skeleton" when he signed the plea agreement in 2005, having rapidly lost 100 pounds due to prostate cancer and having been doped up on sedatives. He says he knew the plea was "90 to 95% untrue," but he made a mistake and trusted his lawyers.

Cunningham was accused of trading lucrative contracts for bribes from defense firms. In the journal, Cunningham goes over the evidence, item by item, arguing that the transactions characterized as bribes by the U.S. Attorney's Office were little more than reimbursements. He rails against the prosecution, accusing them of duplicity and intimidation, and attacks the IRS, which has continually sought his assets.

In one especially revealing passage, Cunningham addresses the accusation that he had sex with a prostitute in Hawaii while on vacation with contractor Brent Wilkes.

"At no time did I ever state that I had sex with a prostitute in Hawaii, and the DOJ bastards know it," he writes. "I told the prosecutors I would submit to any doctor or sex therapist etc to prove it was impossible. I had radical prostate surgery which left me almost impotent even with the use of ED [erectile dysfunction] medication after a year of recuperation."

Cunningham also gives a deeper glimpse into his life in prison. He is looking forward to his ability qualify for a furlough soon and his release in June 2013. In addition to teaching GED courses to inmates, he has begun playing paddle ball and softball on the weekends.

"If the good Lord extends my life, I will continue to be a champion for judicial and prison reform, and against the intimidation of IRS agents and DOJ prosecutors who use threats to get plea 'agreements' - and the many other cases I have documented in recent years about the abuse of government power," he writes. "I would not have believed it -- until my family faced it first.

"There is much more to this untold story ... but let this suffice for now," he ends.


  • Visit one of the 70 participating restaurants, bars, coffeehouses and nightclubs in town on this night and 25 to 50 percent of sales will go to local HIV/AIDS services and prevention programs. 
  • Anthony Bernal and Chris Ward, who are vying to replace Todd Gloria on the San Diego City Council, will discuss urban issues, such as parking, homelessness and new developments
  • The new exhibition designed by Dave Ghilarducci is made from hundreds of rolls of packing tape and bound together by layers of plastic shrink-wrap. Visitors can navigate their way through cocoon-like passageways...
  • The renowned Mexican black and white photographer presents an exhibition exploring the principal themes within three groups: "Bestiarium"," Fantastic Women" and "Silent Natures."
  • Presented by Pacific Arts Movement, the sixth annual mini film fest features 14 film programs from 10 countries that includes everything from docs to romantic tearjerkers. See website for full lineup and...
  • The San Diego County Bike Coalition hosts this monthly bike-in happy hour event to get biking residents involved in their communities and discuss bike projects planned for that specific community
  • Debunk some of the stereotypes surrounding cannibalism at this new exhibition that takes a hands-on approach to the subject. Includes video games and interactive activities where patrons will have to decide...
  • So Say We All's monthly storytelling night features stories about those jobs we took because we had to take a job. Featured readers include Allison Gauss, Annmarie Houghtailing, Cecile Estelle, and more
  • Artists from the all-abstracts group show will talk about their work and techniques. Artists include Edwin Nutting, Danielle Nelisse, Leah Pantea, Lenore Simon, and more
See all events on Thursday, Apr 28