Randy ‘Duke’ Cunningham released from prison

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SAN DIEGO — Former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-San Diego, imprisoned in 2006 for bribery, fraud and tax evasion, was released Tuesday from a federal halfway house in New Orleans.

Cunningham, 71, was sentenced to eight years and four months behind bars, and spent most of that time at a prison in Tucson. He was sent to the halfway house in December.

Edmond Ross, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Prisons, told City News Service that Cunningham was freed according to terms of a release plan that was drawn up severRandy "Duke" Cunninghamal months ago — which is standard procedure. Release plans are not disclosed to the public, he said.

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

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.

Since being denied permission to possess a firearm, Cunningham has said that he might instead settle with military friends in Florida and write his memoirs.

In addition to pleading guilty to tax evasion and conspiracy, Cunningham admitted receiving at least $2.4 million in gifts, cash and trips from defense contractors in exchange for steering government work their way.

Federal prosecutors said he purchased a sprawling Rancho Santa Fe mansion with illegal funds.  Prosecutors said Cunningham sold his Del Mar home for an inflated price to a man who would later get major government contracts.

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

Prior to the bribery scandal, Cunningham 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.

While at the halfway house, the ex-congressman had to go through programs designed to prepare inmates for their release, Ross said. He was allowed to go out into the community with permission but was required to spend each night in the facility.

Federal prison officials said Cunningham will be on probation or supervised release at least for the next three years.

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