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Two former defense contractors convicted of bribing former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham are swapping places in the prison system. As Mitchell Wade prepares to head to prison following his sentencing last month, a federal judge has granted $2 million bail for Brent Wilkes, who was serving 12 years for bribing Cunningham.

Wilkes has been fighting for release for nearly a year. The 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in March granted Wilkes bail pending appeal of his bribery, fraud, and conspiracy convictions.  Judge Larry Burns in San Diego, however, kept the 54-year-old Wilkes locked up over concerns over the value of the collateral he was posting to secure release.

Burns insisted that Wilkes post collateral of $1.4 million or 70 percent of his bail — seven times the typical 10 percent requirement. Wilkes pledged three homes subject to forfeiture, but Judge Burns ruled in June that it wasn’t enough and refused to grant bail.

Wilkes appealed to the high court, and on Dec. 30, the 9th circuit ordered Wilkes’ release. The appellate court ruled that the three homes were sufficient collateral “given changed market conditions which have resulted in a decline in the value of real property.” Even though the market had left Wilkes an even lower level of collateral, the court appears to saying he now has sufficient assets to post bail.

Wilkes has been serving his time at Terminal Island in San Pedro. His former consultant, Mitch Wade, hasn’t yet reported to prison to begin his 30-month sentence.

The sentencing judge recommended that Wade serve his sentence at a prison “camp” in Petersburg, Va. Cunningham is serving 100 months in a similar prison camp in Tucson, Ariz.

— SETH HETTENA

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