A federal appeals court panel Monday denied a new trial for a former Poway defense contractor convicted of masterminding the bribery scandal that brought down ex-San Diego-area Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham.

Brent Wilkes, 59, was convicted in November 2007 of bribing Cunningham with cash, gifts, meals and prostitutes.Wilkes served less than a year of a 12-year prison sentence before being freed pending appeal.

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled today that U.S. District Judge Larry Burns did not err when refusing to grant Wilkes a new trial.

An attorney for Wilkes, Shereen Charlick, argued unsuccessfully that new evidence — a statement Cunningham made from prison that Wilkes did not bribe him — pointed toward Wilkes’ innocence.

The appeals court panel ruled that the supposed “new evidence” offered by Wilkes’ attorney was available at his trial and therefore not new.

Cunningham, now 72, pleaded guilty in 2005 and served more than eight years in prison before he was released last year.

 –City News Service

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