Before leaving office this week, former President Donald Trump granted a partial pardon to a former U.S. Congressman from the state of California who lived in Missouri for many years.
Randy “Duke” Cunningham, a Republican who lived in the Shelbina and Columbia areas, served in Congress from 1991 to 2005. He is a former Top Gun Navy pilot and Vietnam war hero who was part of the largest congressional bribery scandal in history.
He resigned from office after pleading guilty to receiving $2 million in bribes for fancy meals, luxurious trips, cash from defense contractors, and other gifts. While in Congress, Cunningham then drove government contracts their way.
He served eight years in prison for tax evasion and conspiracy to commit bribery – the longest sentence ever given to a former Congressman. The pardon is conditional. Cunningham will have some of his rights restored, but he must still pay off $3.6 million in restitution and forfeiture as part of his sentence.
Cunningham moved with his family to rural Shelbina when he was 12, according to Missourinet historian Bob Priddy. He later attended what was then Northeast Missouri State Teachers College and finished his degree at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Cunningham joined the U.S. Navy in 1967. In 1972, he and his radar observer, “Irish” Driscoll, became the only Navy Aces of the Vietnam War. They shot down five enemy planes, earning the title of Ace. They finished their tour with nine kills, one shorts of becoming double Aces.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reports Cunningham, 79, has been living a quiet life in Arkansas since getting released from federal prison about five years ago.
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