By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Brent R. Wilkes, a California defense contractor and prominent GOP campaign contributor, was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison yesterday for lavishing a Republican congressman with money, prostitutes and other bribes in exchange for nearly $90 million in work from the Pentagon.
Wilkes, 53, was convicted in November of 13 felony crimes including bribery, conspiracy and fraud for giving the gifts to former representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.), who is serving an eight-year prison term for accepting millions in bribes from Wilkes and others.
The sentence by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns in San Diego was far smaller than the 25-year term federal prosecutors had sought or the 60-year term urged by federal probation officers. U.S. Attorney Karen P. Hewitt said nonetheless that Wilkes "has earned every day of the sentence he received" and that the prison term "reflects the egregiousness of the corrupt conduct."
Wilkes has steadfastly maintained his innocence since being charged a year ago, saying his dealings with Cunningham were legitimate and blaming wrongdoing on others. "I am a man who cares deeply for this community, for my family, for my country," Wilkes said in a brief statement to the court, the Associated Press reported.
The judge said he was troubled by Wilkes's failure to accept responsibility for his crimes. "If you were to do the right thing about this, today is the day to own up," the judge told Wilkes, according to the AP. "You have no sense of contrition. You had this corrupt relationship with the congressman and you profited from it."
Wilkes's sentencing marks the latest milestone for federal prosecutors as they continue to piece together the sordid corruption scandals surrounding Cunningham, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and eight-term congressman who pleaded guilty in 2005 to accepting $2.4 million in bribes from Wilkes and others. Cunningham was not called as a witness by either side in the Wilkes case.
In sharply worded court papers filed in advance of the sentencing hearing, prosecutors portrayed Wilkes as a debauched "war profiteer" and "overgrown frat boy" who plied Cunningham -- a "broken old soldier" -- with prostitutes and other temptations in exchange for lucrative contracts for Wilkes's company, ADCS Inc., scanning documents for the Defense Department.
The government said Wilkes showered Cunningham with more than $700,000 in perks -- including $500,000 for a mortgage, $100,000 for a yacht he never purchased, submachine-gun shooting lessons and the services of two prostitutes during a stay at a Hawaiian resort.
"There can be little doubt that Wilkes was the spider, and Cunningham the fly, in this web of corruption," prosecutors said.
Prosecutors also described Wilkes himself as "a frequent and enthusiastic patron of prostitutes" and said he kept a tape of himself having sex with two prostitutes in his office safe.
"Wilkes coldly and successfully exploited the simplemindedness of one of this country's war heroes, now a tortured shadow of his former self," prosecutors wrote. "Wilkes stands now revealed as a war profiteer, a thug, a bully, a lecherous old man who preyed on his young female staffers and hired prostitutes."
Wilkes's attorney, Mark Geragos, did not respond to a telephone message requesting comment yesterday.
Wilkes is a Republican Party "Pioneer" who raised more than $100,000 for President Bush's reelection in 2004 and donated -- in concert with his business colleagues -- $656,396 to 64 other Republican lawmakers and the national Republican Party committees in Washington from 1995 through the third quarter of 2005, according to campaign finance records.
Wilkes was separately charged in a corruption case involving his childhood friend Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, a former executive director at the CIA who allegedly received meals, trips and other goods from Wilkes. But Burns approved a deal yesterday in which Foggo's prosecution will be moved to Alexandria, while Wilkes will be dropped from the case.
Prosecutors have reserved the right to indict Wilkes again, although sources familiar with the case say that is unlikely.
Foggo's attorneys had been seeking a transfer for months, arguing that most key witnesses and documents are in Northern Virginia, but prosecutors had resisted. Last week, however, the government said in a court filing that it had uncovered new evidence to support additional charges against Foggo, some of which could only be brought in Alexandria.
Staff writer Jerry Markon and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.