A judge wrapped up one of the most sordid and sprawling congressional scandals in American history Thursday when he sentenced Kyle "Dusty" Dustin Foggo, formerly the No. 3 official at the CIA, to just over three years in federal prison for defrauding the government.
Foggo is one of eight people who have pleaded guilty or been convicted -- and now sentenced -- in a scandal that emanated from the bribery spree of former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who has the distinction of being the most corrupt congressman ever caught, at least in terms of the amount of bribes he admitted to taking –- more than $2.4 million.
The final sparring in the courtroom on the 10th floor of the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., was a fitting close to the earmarking scandal, one in which phony military intelligence contracts were traded by a congressman who has always portrayed himself as a chest-beating patriot and fiscal conservative. In exchange for wasteful defense contracts, Cunningham got cash, yachts, Persian rugs, French antiques and trysts with prostitutes.
Foggo's case was not about earmarks. He pleaded guilty to one count of defrauding the government by using his senior positions at the CIA to steer agency contracts and funds to his boyhood friend, defense contractor Brent Wilkes. In exchange, Wilkes showered Foggo with pricey dinners and lavish vacations well beyond Foggo's means. He also promised Foggo a job when he retired from the CIA.
Prosecutors wanted Foggo to serve 37 months behind bars for his crimes.
His attorneys argued for probation instead of jail time. The sticking point for the prosecutors, represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Forge, was whether Foggo had truly accepted full responsibility for his criminal actions. They were particularly incensed that Foggo continued to describe himself as a patriot.
"A man who exploits a national crisis by defrauding his country for years should have the humility to refrain from calling himself a patriot," said Forge.
Foggo attorney Mark MacDougall immediately rose and countered that his client is flawed and a criminal, but that doesn't mean he isn't a patriot.
Questions of patriotism and hypocrisy might be what separate the co-conspirators who ran with Cunningham and the rival earmarking posse led by convicted super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
The Abramoff scandal involved lawyers, lawmakers and lobbyists who made no pretense of being in it for anything other than cash, perks and favors. But the four men at the heart of the Cunningham scandal -- Duke, Foggo, Wilkes and defense contractor Mitchell Wade -- wrapped themselves in the flag as they pursued their agenda of avarice and carnal pleasure. They proclaimed themselves patriots while systemically bilking the military intelligence budget year after year.
Three years ago, Cunningham himself appeared before a judge for sentencing and proclaimed his remorse, taking full responsibility for his crimes.
Cunningham was far more theatrical than Foggo was on Thursday. Seeking a reduced sentence, Cunningham alluded to suicide and promised the judge that repentance would be a lifelong endeavor. Later, the U.S. marshal who booked Cunningham would describe how the disgraced congressman, within an hour of sentencing, was complaining bitterly that he had been "ram-rodded" into a guilty plea.
Foggo struck a far less contrite pose as he stood before U.S. District Court Judge James C. Cacheris on Thursday, with his wife and two teenage children sitting morosely in the courtroom. He took full responsibility, he said, yet he refused to elaborate. He characterized his guilty plea as a personal sacrifice undertaken to spare the government the cost of a trial that might have resulted in national secrets being exposed. Foggo and his attorneys argued that he was a patriot and loving and devoted family man even though prosecutors presented a hefty amount of evidence to the contrary. They said the court should consider that Foggo had served the CIA with "honor and distinction" for 24 years, ignoring the long record of blemishes that were cited by those within the agency who quit rather than work under him.
Forge argued that Foggo's acceptance of responsibility was too vague to warrant having his sentence reduced. Foggo needed to explicitly admit that he had used his senior posts at the CIA to corrupt several CIA contracts, Forge said. Foggo needed to admit that he had betrayed his CIA comrades through his crimes rather than saying he had sacrificed for them by accepting the prosecutor’s plea agreement. And he needed to admit to bullying CIA officials into hiring his mistress, and then forcing her supervisor out of the agency after the supervisor criticized the mistress' work.
Neither Foggo nor his family flinched as Forge said Foggo had abused his supervisory authority "all for the selfish pleasure of having your mistress close at hand."
Cacheris accepted the prosecutors' recommendation of 37 months behind bars, followed by two years of supervised release. A date will be set for Foggo's surrender.
|Duke Cunningham: Sentenced to eight years and four months. Forfeit $1.85 million, pay another $1.8 million in back taxes, and give up interest in his illegally funded Rancho Santa Fe home.|
|Thomas Kontogiannis, who served as a money launderer for Cunningham and the contractors who bribed him: Eight years and one month in prison and a $1.05 million fine.|
|Kyle "Dusty" Dustin Foggo: Three years and one month in prison; two years of supervision following his release from custody.|
|Mitchell Wade, founder of the defense firm MZM Inc. and responsible for the lion’s share of the bribes Cunningham admitted receiving. Wade was the primary cooperator with the government and had his sentence reduced accordingly. Two and a half years in prison and a $250,000 fine.|
|John T. Michael, Kontogiannis’ nephew and the person who actually handled the money laundering under instructions from his uncle: Five years probation and a $100,000 fine.|
|Robert Fromm, an Army contract official who went to work at MZM and influenced former subordinates to help MZM get and keep contracts through favorable reviews: One year of probation and fined $2,500.|
|Richard Berglund, an MZM employee who made illegal political contributions at the direction of Wade: One year of probation and fined $2,500.|
|Brent Wilkes, a defense contractor and boyhood friend of Foggo who fought the charges in court and was found guilty of 13 charges, including bribing a public official. His case is now under appeal: Sentenced to 12 years in jail followed by three years of supervision following his release. Ordered to pay $636,116 in forfeiture and $501,300 in fines.|