Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Corruption without end

Last year, [newspaper reports of Duke Cunningham's corruption] caused him to sink into a depression that included thoughts of suicide. He wasn't wholly to blame for his troubles, Cunningham later told Saul Faerstein, a Beverly Hills psychiatrist. He'd been led astray, his "moral and religious values" perverted by unwholesome friends. "He recognizes now that Wade and others in Washington were part of a culture of corruption," wrote Faerstein, an expert for the defense in the O. J. Simpson trial, who was hired by Cunningham's lawyer in an effort to obtain a lighter sentence for his client. "He is troubled he didn't see the motives of the people he trusted." In fact, Faerstein wrote to the court, he found Cunningham "naïve in some ways, always trying to see the best qualities in people."

Do you know that Cunningham wrote a "bribe menu," detailing how many hundreds of thousands he should be paid for defense contracts, right under the bald eagle on his House of Representatives stationery? I ask the psychiatrist. Did Duke tell you he tried to inveigle innocent people into covering up his moneymaking schemes? "That was certainly quite damning…. But I never heard about that until later," says the psychiatrist. "I asked Cunningham's lawyer, 'Why didn't you provide me with that information?' They told me they gave me what I needed…. I am not very happy I didn't know all the facts." (Blalack says, "We made available to Dr. Faerstein all of the evidence that was in our possession.")

So, even as he was pleading guilty, Duke wasn't straight with you? I ask. "No," says Faerstein. "If I'd known about those things, I would have seen he was not so much influenced by the culture of corruption as part of the culture of corruption.



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