Correspondence

by | October 9, 2006

DUKE IT OUT

I AM WRITING IN MY CAPACITY AS counsel for Randall "Duke" Cunningham in regard to Kitty Kelley's article ("Ace in the Hole," August 28). I was unavailable due to professional commitments when I was contacted by Ms. Kelley; it is disturbing that your magazine would print this story before providing Cunningham or his counsel an adequate opportunity to speak with your publication regarding the particulars of her story. As a consequence, your story omitted certain key facts that I suspect your readers would have wanted to know. For example, Kelley's article states that Cunningham left thousands of dollars in cash in a duffel bag for his wife before his sentencing. The article fails to note, however, that Cunningham disclosed in his pre-sentence investigation that he possessed this cash. I presume you understand that the pre-sentence investigation report was provided to the U.S. District Court that sentenced Cunningham and to the office of the U.S. attorney that prosecuted him. Thus, the intimation in your article that Cunningham was attempting to hide funds from the government is erroneous. Cunningham left cash with his wife that he had previously disclosed to the government because he was to be incarcerated the next day and could not physically carry thousands of dollars into the federal correctional system. There was nothing sinister or unusual about Cunningham leaving cash, clothes, and other personal effects with his wife prior to his entering the penal system. Your story also reports that Nancy Cunningham felt "abandoned by Duke Cunningham's attorneys at O'Melveny & Myers for not negotiating her immunity." Kelley failed to explain, however, that our firm did not represent Nancy Cunningham at the time we were negotiating her husband's plea agreement. During our negotiations with the office of the U.S. attorney, our ethical obligations were to represent only Duke Cunningham's interests. We had no authority or ability to secure immunity for Nancy Cunningham. She had counsel of her own. Yet your story fails to alert your readers to this key fact.
K. LEE BLALACK II
O'Melveny & Myers LLP
Washington, D.C.

 

KITTY KELLEY RESPONDS:

K. Lee Blalack had sufficient time to respond to my four telephone messages, my conversation with his secretary, and my follow-up e-mail with specific questions prior to publication. If Duke Cunningham was not "attempting to hide funds," as Blalack asserts, why did the former congressman berate his wife for turning over to her lawyer the contents of the duffel bag he dropped in her driveway the night before he was sentenced, which contained his dirty underwear and $32,000 in cash stashed in Ziploc bags? Nancy Cunningham continues to feel "abandoned" by her husband's attorneys for not negotiating immunity for her. Court records show that O'Melveny & Myers represented both Randall Cunningham and Nancy Cunningham from June to September 2005, and Nancy Cunningham understands many plea-bargain cases are made with U.S. attorneys in which consideration of immunity is given to the wife. Cunningham publicly stated to the judge on March 3, 2006, that his wife "knew nothing, absolutely nothing" about his crimes. He still continues to plead her innocence from prison. In a letter to Blalack dated August 4, 2006, a copy of which he sent to his wife (who shared it with me), Cunningham wrote: "You told me Forge [a lawyer in the U.S. attorney's office] would not probably go after Nancy. …If I seem desperate I am. I have proceeded with the belief that everything we were doing was in the best interest of Nancy & my family. Lee, I can't take much more. I can do my time but to watch Forge go after Wade/Wilkes and Tommy K. and destroy an innocent woman and children is beyond all pain." Public records show that O'Melveny & Myers was paid $570,000 by the "Friends of Duke Cunningham."


FINAL ANALYSIS

ELISABETH LASCH-QUINN LISTS ME as one of the persons who has followed a "new tradition of social criticism" inaugurated by Philip Rieff ("The Mind of the Moralist," August 28). I began my criticism of the medicalization of (mis)behaviors--and their de facto criminal control defined as psychiatric treatment--in the mid-'50s and introduced the term "myth of mental illness" in 1960 and the concept of "the therapeutic state" in 1963. Rieff's book, The Triumph of the Therapeutic, was published in 1966. Who was following whom?
THOMAS SZASZ, MD
Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry
State University of New York
Syracuse, New York

 

ELISABETH LASCH-QUINN RESPONDS:

The point I made in my essay was that Rieff's work, together with that of several others, was part of a larger mid-to-late twentieth-century critique of the therapeutic culture that is tremendously important and worthy of further attention. Although coming at the question from a very different angle from Rieff's, Szasz's work contributed in an unforgettable fashion to our understanding of the dangers of the seemingly benign imperatives of the therapeutic age. I wrote in my essay that Rieff "helped to inaugurate" this line of inquiry--with earlier work that culminated in Freud: The Mind of a Moralist (1959) as well as The Triumph of the Therapeutic--not that he inaugurated it. His critique emerged, of course, within an intellectual milieu in which many had come to question--in manifold ways--the orthodoxies of politics and culture regnant at the time.

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