Defense contractor faces 60 years in jail

Jan. 22, 2008 at 6:50 PM

SAN DIEGO, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Federal probation officers recommend a defense contractor convicted of bribing a former U.S. congressman should be jailed for 60 years, court records show.

Brent Wilkes is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 19, after his attorneys successfully argued for a delay Monday, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. In court papers, attorney Mark Geragos said he needed time to review and challenge the federal probation office's report.

In November, a jury convicted Wilkes of 13 counts of bribery, conspiracy and wire fraud. Prosecutors argued Wilkes gave former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham bribes of at least $625,000, sumptuous meals trips and gifts. In return, Cunningham, a former Republican representative from Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., helped steer millions in federal contracts to Wilkes' company.

Cunningham pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion, and is serving a 100-month prison sentence.

"I'm sure Wilkes' lawyers' jaws dropped to the floor when they read 60 years," Shaun Martin, a University of San Diego School of Law professor, told the Union-Tribune. "It's a huge number. Bribing public officials is worse than stealing from shareholders. Both are terrible, but one is worse."

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