Randy ‘Duke’ Cunningham released to halfway house

Randy "Duke" CunninghamSAN DIEGO – Former San Diego congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham is living in a halfway house after being released from federal prison, officials confirmed Wednesday.

Cunningham, now 71, was sentenced to eight years and four months behind bars. In addition to pleading guilty to tax evasion and conspiracy, he admitted receiving at least $2.4 million in gifts, cash and trips from defense contractors in exchange for steering government work their way.

Prison officials said Cunningham was released to a halfway house in the New Orleans area on Dec. 5. He will remain there for the final months of his prison term, which ends in June, they said.

Since being incarcerated, Cunningham has denied accepting bribes and said he regretted his plea.

Prior to the bribery scandal, Cunningham lived in Rancho Santa Fe and represented California’s 50th Congressional District for 14 years. He resigned amid his legal woes. Prior to politics, he flew an F-4 Phantom fighter jet for the U.S Navy during the Vietnam War.

At the halfway house, the ex-congressman will have to seek work and go through programs designed to prepare inmates for their release, said Edmond Ross, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Prisons. Inmates can go out into the community with permission, but must spend each night in the facility.

The inmates can also reconnect with their families at the halfway house, according to Ross.

Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Larry Burns denied a request for Cunningham to possess a firearm so he could hunt and participate in sport shooting contests. In a letter to the judge, he said he plans to live out his days with his mother and brother in rural Arkansas, writing books.

Burns said in his response that the 1968 federal law banning felons from possessing weapons contains no exemptions for hunting and sport shooting and that Cunningham could only bypass the law by receiving a waiver from the Secretary of the Treasury.

Cunningham spent most of his sentence at a prison in Tucson. In a letter to San Diego CityBeat, he said he spent his mornings teaching fellow prisoners who were seeking their Graduate Equivalency Degree, known as a GED, and his afternoons instructing adults.