Contractor Convicted in Cunningham Case

The Associated Press
Tuesday, November 6, 2007; 2:57 AM

SAN DIEGO -- When Brent Wilkes was indicted on charges of bribing former Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham with cash, trips and meals, the defense contractor responded by sending reporters a statement insisting he was innocent and would prevail in court.

"I guarantee you, I will be vindicated," he wrote.

On Monday, moments after jurors returned their guilty verdict against Wilkes, the contractor's lawyer said again that his client wasn't done fighting.

"This thing is fatally flawed," said Mark Geragos outside the courthouse.

Geragos pledged to appeal the jury's finding that Wilkes was guilty on 13 counts of conspiracy, bribery, money laundering and wire fraud in the only trial to emerge so far from one of the biggest corruption scandals ever in Congress. The individual counts carry maximum prison sentences ranging from 5 years to 20 years.

Wilkes, 53, wearing a dark gray suit, sat stone faced and then shook his head slightly as jurors returned the verdict.

He left the courthouse without commenting to reporters. Geragos said he and Wilkes were shocked.

"I don't believe this case was proved beyond a reasonable doubt," Geragos said. "Obviously I'm very disappointed. I think he shares the confidence that we'll get it reversed."

Prosecutors contended that Wilkes lavished Cunningham with more than $700,000 in perks _ everything from illicit cash payments to submachine gun shooting lessons and the services of prostitutes while Cunningham stayed at a Hawaiian resort.

In return, Cunningham helped Wilkes secure nearly $90 million in Pentagon contracts, mainly for scanning paper documents, prosecutors said.

"This case demonstrates our firm commitment that those who bribe federal officials shall face criminal consequences for their wrongdoing," said Karen Hewitt, the U.S. attorney in San Diego.

Wilkes has steadfastly maintained his innocence since being charged in February. In eight hours on the witness stand, he testified that his transactions with Cunningham were legitimate and flatly denied bribing him or any other lawmakers.

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