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New hearing ordered in case of bribing congressman (Duke Cunningham, R-CA)

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alp227 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-20-11 11:45 AM
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New hearing ordered in case of bribing congressman (Duke Cunningham, R-CA)
A federal appeals court ordered a new hearing Tuesday for a former military contractor convicted of bribing a Southern California congressman in a case that sent both men to prison, saying the trial judge may have improperly limited defense testimony.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said prosecutors in Brent Wilkes' 2007 trial presented abundant evidence that he obtained millions of dollars in defense contracts by showering Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham with lavish vacations, meals and mortgage payments.

"This was not a close case," the court said in a 3-0 ruling. But rather than upholding Wilkes' convictions, the panel told U.S. District Judge Larry Burns to reconsider whether he should have ordered prosecutors to grant immunity to a defense witness who was refusing to testify for fear of self-incrimination.

Defense lawyers said the witness, Michael Williams, would have contradicted prosecution testimony that Wilkes billed the government for work he never actually performed or supervised. Burns said he had no power to order immunity, but the court ruled in a later case that judges have that authority.

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