Cunningham gets seven years for CIETC-related crimes (updated)

Ramona Cunningham was sentenced to seven years in prison for her part in misappropriating $1.5 million in federal funds while she headed the Central Iowa Employment and Training Consortium (CIETC). Others involved in the fraud at CIETC will be sentenced later this month or next year, but presumably Cunningham will do the most time in prison, having been the central figure in the scandal.

The prison sentence seems fair; misusing funds meant for job training programs is a serious crime. I’m sure many people will say Cunningham should be punished more harshly, though. The hatred of her is out of proportion to the crimes at CIETC.

Speaking of crime and punishment, Glenn Greenwald wrote a good post contrasting the media’s exhaustive coverage of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s alleged crimes with the near-total silence about the Senate Armed Services Committee’s recent finding:

The bipartisan Senate Armed Services Committee report issued on Thursday — which documents that “former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other senior U.S. officials share much of the blame for detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba” and “that Rumsfeld’s actions were ‘a direct cause of detainee abuse’ at Guantanamo and ‘influenced and contributed to the use of abusive techniques … in Afghanistan and Iraq’” — raises an obvious and glaring question:  how can it possibly be justified that the low-level Army personnel carrying out these policies at Abu Ghraib have been charged, convicted and imprisoned, while the high-level political officials and lawyers who directed and authorized these same policies remain free of any risk of prosecution?  

Great question.

UPDATE: CIETC’s former chief accountant Karen Tesdell got sentenced to two years on Tuesday for looking the other way as her colleagues misappropriated money.

Marc Hansen’s latest column reviews the arguments Cunningham’s attorney Bill Kutmus used during the sentencing hearing. He said his client wasn’t the ringleader and should not be punished more harshly than John Bargman (CIETC’s former chief operating officer, who will be sentenced next year). He also said Cunningham was a victim of sexism, and that U.S. prosecutors had treated her unfairly.

I agree that misogyny was driving a lot of the intense hatred of Cunningham. But I have some advice for her: next time you decide to commit a bunch of federal crimes, strike a plea bargain like Bargman did if you don’t want to do serious prison time.

Look at Mitchell Wade. He bribed a member of Congress with more than $1.8 million and just got sentenced to only 30 months in prison, because he cooperated with prosecutors.  

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