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The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Cunningham’s Vote to Support the Death Penalty for Drug Kingpins

How Your Representatives Voted

Source: San Diego Union-Tribune. 17 April 1994, p. B-6.

States News Service

Here are the votes of California’s senators and local representatives on major legislation in Congress last week. A “Y” means the member voted for the measure; an “N” means the member voted against the measure; a “?” means that a member did not vote, and a “P” means the member voted present. Friday’s voting is not included.
. . .


The House on Thursday [April 14, 1994] rejected by a 108-316 vote an amendment to the crime bill (H.R. 4092) that would have deleted a provision that subjects convicted “drug kingpins” to the death penalty. Supporters of the amendment said the punishment would fall disproportionately on minorities, but opponents argued that people who run drug rings are as bad as murderers. A “no” vote favors retention of the death penalty for drug kingpins.

Votes: 2
. . .

Additional Information: http://rs9.loc.gov/r103/r103d14ap4.html
The McCollum amendment that adds procedures for imposing the death penalty in cases involving drug “kingpins” where no death results (agreed to by a recorded vote of 340 ayes to 87 noes, with 1 voting “present” Roll No. 108).

Copyright © 1994 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.

A call to arms against youth drug abuse

Source: San Diego Union-Tribune. 24 September 1996, pp. B-6 - B-7.

By Randy “Duke” Cunningham

CUNNINGHAM represents the 51st Congressional District, which includes Del Mar, Encinitas, Escondido, Lake San Marcos, Poway, Solana Beach and parts of Carlsbad, Oceanside, Ramona, San Diego, San Marcos, Valley Center and Vista.

America’s young people are in danger.

Alarming new statistics show drug use skyrocketing among teen-agers. Drugs have invaded our classrooms, our homes and our communities. They have destroyed promising young lives, torn families apart and crushed hope. We can continue to go down this destructive path, or we can act now to save our children’s future.

Illustrating the depth of this crisis are reports from the Department of Health and Human Services that show overall drug use among 12- to 17-year-olds has increased an appalling 78 percent from 1992 to 1995. Among 14- and 15-year-olds, marijuana use has jumped 200 percent. Use of LSD and other hallucinogens has nearly tripled among young people during the same time.

In 1994, emergency-room reports of cocaine-related episodes were at their highest level ever. And emergency room reports for methamphetamine (“meth” a powerful and deadly drug widely popular among teens in San Diego and the western United States, are up a whopping 308 percent. These are not mere statistics. Behind every number is a young person whose life has taken a dangerous turn. We must take this crisis seriously. We must strengthen America’s families by having a real war on drugs at our borders, in our communities, schools and homes. We can win this war, but only with a serious commitment from everyone — parents, teachers, clergy, local police, entertainers, the media, Congress and the president of the United States.

We cannot, however, win this war with the current cavalier attitude toward illicit drug use. It has sent a powerful and dangerous message to America’s children that drugs are OK. We don’t need parents or society saying drugs are just a passing fancy that we all go through. We don’t need the entertainment industry to falsely romanticize drugs in movies or TV shows. And we don’t need President Clinton to maintain the attitude of candidate Clinton, who told teens on MTV that he would inhale if he had the chance to do it again. What we need from our policy leaders and law enforcement is a real war on drugs. We must get tough on drug dealers, fully fund the war on drugs, and stop drugs at the border. We must reverse the Clinton record: 80 percent cuts in the office of National Drug Control Policy staff, fewer drug-enforcement agents, reduced drug-interdiction efforts, declining drug prosecutions, reduced mandatory-minimum sentences for drug trafficking and “soft on crime” liberal judges.

Congress has already begun to revitalize the drug war by pumping $7.1 billion into anti-drug programs. We are going right to the source, focusing our efforts on countries where drugs originate. And to help halt the flow of drugs into America, our immigration-reform bill doubles our Border Patrol over the next five years. We also passed a law that stops activist federal judges from ordering the early release of violent criminals and drug traffickers. Those who would peddle destruction on our children must pay dearly.

To give states the resources and flexibility to crack down on juvenile drug use and violent crime, I introduced the Juvenile Crime Prevention Act. It establishes mandatory-minimum prison sentences for juveniles who use firearms during drug-trafficking offenses.

And the bill gives states the tools they need to hold youth accountable for their actions before they become serious, violent criminals. We recognize that if we turn troubled young persons around, we give them another chance at the American Dream.

Crucial to winning the war on drugs are education and community campaigns. So on Thursday, my House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth and Families will team up with Government Reform Oversight to send a strong message to Americans: Drugs kill. We will hear from health and community experts on what can be done to reverse the drug crisis. And we will also examine ways to marshal community leadership and resources to start local anti-drug coalitions.

Finally, I believe we must revive in word and deed the simple phrase, “Just Say No,” coined by Nancy Reagan in the 1980s. While cynical elites once joked about its effectiveness, I believe it played a significant role in reducing drug use.

Many successful community-based initiatives were modeled on this campaign. It helped establish the mind-set among America’s teens that zero tolerance for drugs was “cool,” an attitude that is in jeopardy today. While Washington sets a standard and provides resources to fight the drug war, no one can help our children better than those closest to them — parents, teachers, local law enforcement and community leaders. We cannot fail our children by dismissing drug use with a wink and a nod, ignoring it, or slashing funds to fight it. We must meet the challenge head-on. We must let our children know that drugs kill, and their use will not be tolerated. Only then will be victorious.

Copyright © 1996 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.

Cunningham son held on marijuana charge

Crime Watch

Source: San Diego Union-Tribune. 25 January 1997, pp. B-2 - B-3.

ESCONDIDO — The 26-year-old son of Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-Escondido, was arrested Saturday in Lawrence, Mass., on charges of trafficking marijuana, the congressman’s local office said yesterday.

Todd R. Cunningham, a resident of Pacific Beach, is the son of Cunningham and his first wife, who divorced in the early 1970s. He lived with his father in Del Mar in the late 1980s and spent 11 months in a residential center for treatment of drug problems, an aide said.

Cunningham supports stiff penalties for drug offenders and in 1994 voted to make certain major felonies committed by drug kingpins a capital offense. His son, who is free on bail, is being charged under state law.

“As a parent, this is the most anguishing thing that can happen to you,” the congressman said in a prepared statement. “We love him. If the charges are true, we are disappointed and must face his responsibilities.”

Copyright © 1997 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.

Son of lawmaker sentenced to prison

Randall Cunningham gets 2 1/2 years for smuggling marijuana

Source: San Diego Union-Tribune. 18 November 1998, pp. B-1, B-10.

By Bill Murphy

BOSTON — Randall Todd Cunningham was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in federal prison yesterday for marijuana smuggling, after his father, the Republican congressman from Escondido, made a tearful plea for leniency.

The term was half the mandated five years and was supported by the prosecutor. In imposing sentence, Judge Reginald C. Lindsay noted that the 29-year-old Cunningham had no prior convictions and had provided information that led to the arrests of higher-ups in the smuggling operation.

It was the first time Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham had come to the court in Massachusetts since his son and several others were charged with smuggling 400 pounds of marijuana from the San Diego area to Lawrence Airport on Jan. 17, 1997.

In August of last year, the younger Cunningham pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and conspiracy.

The congressman has supported the death penalty for drug kingpins and has supported erecting a fence at the Mexican-American border to keep out drug smugglers.

In a tear-choked voice, Cunningham wondered whether he had some responsibility for his son’s having fallen into difficulty. He said he had not spent much time with the boy when the child was growing up.

During those years, he said, he piloted 300 missions in the Vietnam War. “I was shot down,” said Cunningham, a highly decorated Navy pilot.

He and his first wife adopted Randall Todd, but the couple later divorced. The boy lived with his mother in St. Louis, Cunningham said, and spent one month a year with him.

“This is . . .” Cunningham said, as his voice trailed off, “This is difficult.” He began to cry.

“I’m sure you see people from broken homes here every day,” he told the judge.

He said his son is basically a good person who made a bad decision.

“He has a good heart. He works hard. He’s expressed to me he wants to go back to school,” Cunningham said. “He’s never been in trouble before.”

When he finished, the congressman put his hands on his son’s shoulders, sat down and wiped away a tear.

Months before the sentencing, prosecutors had agreed to recommend a 14- to 18-month stay in boot camp and half-way house for the younger Cunningham, who had been a bartender in San Diego.

However, Cunningham tested positive three times for cocaine while out on bail, said his San Diego lawyer, Joseph Milchen.

Cunningham was held in jail after the third incident, Aug. 26 [, 1998].

On that day, when federal probation officers in San Diego came to give Cunningham a drug test, he tried to avoid them by jumping out a window onto a restaurant roof, Milchen said. He broke his leg and still wears a cast.

Judge Lindsay said he would request that Cunningham serve his time at Lompoc federal prison and ordered him to take part in a 500-day drug program there.

Defense lawyer Milchen said Cunningham could cut his sentence by as much as a year by completing the program.

Prosecutor Geoffrey H. Hobart said Cunningham began working for marijuana smugglers to pay for his own drug habit.

In this case, Cunningham took a commercial flight on Jan. 17 from San Diego to Boston. He then met a pilot and another man who had flown the 400 pounds of marijuana from San Diego to Lawrence Airport, about 25 miles north of Boston.

He helped the men unload the marijuana and put it in a van, which he drove to a nearby motel in order to meet the buyers.

Prosecutor Hobart said Cunningham was paid little for his efforts and was basically “a mule” for Los Angeles lawyer Jeffrey L. Dunavant, 31. Dunavant has pleaded guilty to taking part in the conspiracy.

Hobart said Cunningham also picked up $100 to $150 for mailing packages of marijuana for a friend, Jonathan G. “Fitness Johnny” Mudrinich, 32, of San Diego. The packages were mailed from San Diego to Worchester, about 50 miles west of Boston.

Mudrinich has pleaded guilty to smuggling marijuana from San Diego to Boston.

Twenty-nine men — many from Southern California — have been charted with taking part in the Dunavant ring, the Mudrinich ring and a third ring. Nearly all of them have pleaded guilty to marijuana smuggling.

The Drug Enforcement Administration suspects the rings shipped tons of marijuana to the East Coast and Midwest.

Still at large is Sergio Gonzales of Southern California and Mexico.

Bill Murphy is a reporter based in Lawrence, Mass.

Copyright © 1998 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.

Peter Rowe [columnist]

When a father and politician become one

Source: San Diego Union-Tribune. 24 November 1998, p. E-1.

The bonds between parents and children may be unbreakable, but they can be heartbreaking. Mothers and fathers, a philosopher once declared, are hostages to fortune.

In a Boston courtroom last week, Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham. apologized — “This is difficult,” he told the judge — then dabbed at his tears. This would have been difficult for anyone, yes, but especially so for the Republican from Escondido.

Consider one of his op-ed articles for this newspaper, "America’s young people are in danger."

He wrote, “We must reverse the Clinton record: 80 prevent cuts in the Office of National Drug Control Policy staff, fewer drug-enforcement agents, reduced drug-interdiction efforts, declining drug prosecutions, reduced mandatory-minimum sentences for drug trafficking and ‘soft on crime’ liberal judges.”

The article’s publication date: Sept. 24, 1996.

Less than four months later — on Jan. 17, 1997 — drug-enforcement agents mustered sufficient force to interdict 28-year-old Randall Todd Cunningham and 400 pounds of marijuana in a Boston suburb.

“He has a good heart,” Duke assured Judge Reginald C. Lindsay at Todd’s sentencing last Tuesday. “He works hard. He’s expressed to me he wants to go back to school. He’s never been in trouble before.”

If it’s your son facing prison time, no parent demands a merciless judge or a harsh sentence.

Not funny

When I called Cunningham’s office in Washington last week, an aide hesitated to speak with me.

“Some people find this funny,” she said.

I don’t. I find the gap between Cunningham’s political postures and personal please to be less hypocritical than human. I am sure that Rep. Cunningham will remain, as the aide pledged, “tough on drugs.” And I have no doubt that father Cunningham will always want to preserve his son from harm. From what I can tell, he has been a caring and compassionate father to his adopted son, who is bound for federal prison and in more need of caring and compassion than ever.

I am not laughing.

I cannot, because this case illustrates the sobering fact that the entire illicit drug industry — from growers and smugglers to dealers and users — is made up of people. These are not the soulless straw figures who prove so irresistible in campaign speeches.

But membership in the human race does not give pushers immunity from prosecution. Drugs are a scrourge, and those who traffic in these poisons should be stopped and punished.

When these criminals are sentenced, though, it’s a rare courtroom that does not witness fervent prayers for a judge’s leniency, a prosecutor’s mercy, a jail term that somehow slips below the mandated minimum.

Please, your honor. He has a good heart.

Clear solutions

After his January 1997 arrest, Todd made bail — until this August, when he was returned to a cell. A random test had turned up cocaine in his system. For the third straight time.

Still, Judge Lindsay sentenced him to 2 1/2 years in prison, half the federally mandated minimum. Prosecutors noted Todd’s otherwise clean record, and his co-operation with investigators.

Dad’s interest may have been noted, too.

In Congress, Duke Cunningham has supported federal funding for drug treatment and prevention programs. “He’s not just a tough-on-drugs guy,” his aide said. “He gets to the root of the problem.”

Still, Duke has often implied that this is a simple contest between good and evil. In speeches and votes, he has insisted that the solutions — mandatory prison terms, tougher judges, the death penalty for major drug dealers — could not be clearer.

But the clearest solutions, he may have found in Boston last week, always involve someone else’s kid.

PETER ROWE’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. He welcomes phone calls (619-293-1227), faxes (619-235-8916) and e-mail (peter.rowe @ uniontrib.com)

Copyright © 1998 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.

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