San Diego Union 

November 30, 2005

Hunter consoling his former colleague

By Joe Cantlupe

WASHINGTON – After pleading guilty Monday to taking $2.4 million in bribes, Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham spent the day in prayer and talked about a new chapter in his life – a "chapter of service to God," said Cunningham's longtime friend, Rep. Duncan Hunter.

Hunter, R-El Cajon, had avoided talking about Cunningham's guilty plea until last night, when he issued a statement expressing regret over Cunningham's crimes but offering hope that his friend can find a new purpose in life. Both men have said they are born-again Christians.

"Duke committed crimes, and now he will pay for them," Hunter said. "His future on earth is now in the hands of the justice system, but Duke's soul is in the hands of God and the forgiveness of Christ. We, his remaining friends, have spent the last day with Duke praying and talking . . . ."

While Cunningham awaits his Feb. 27 sentencing, he "wants to serve those who are suffering, to begin his long road of atonement," Hunter said.

"There are lots of folks out there who need help. Duke now has no money, no power, and no reputation, but he has value to God and he wants to prove that value."

Cunningham could not be reached for comment.

Hunter ended his statement by asking Americans to "look beyond" Cunningham's crimes and remember "the young Phantom pilot of 1972 who was awarded the Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, 15 air medals and the Purple Heart, serving our nation over the skies of North Vietnam.

"That's the Duke I remember," he said.

Joe Cantlupe: (202) 737-7687;

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