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Cunningham Loses Round in Battle Over Home Sale

A federal judge on Friday turned down a request by Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.) to have federal prosecutors remove a “lis pendens,” or notice of potential civil forfeiture proceedings, against Cunningham’s Rancho Santa Fe home.

Cunningham is under investigation by a federal task force for his relationship with Mitchell Wade, a defense contractor who used a Nevada front company to buy Cunningham’s previous home in Del Mar, Calif., in November 2003. Wade later sold the house for $700,000 less than he paid for it. Federal prosecutors allege that transaction may have constituted a bribe to Cunningham, although the California Republican vehemently denies any wrongdoing.

On Friday, Judge Dana Sabraw denied the motion by Cunningham’s lawyers to lift the lis pendens, as well as rejecting a claim by Cunningham and his wife for damages, at least for now. While the lis pendens may be soon lifted by mutual agreement between the two sides, Cunningham’s lawyers will file a revised claim for damages.

Sabraw also set an Oct. 14 date for debate on a motion by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Southern California to set aside further proceedings in this civil forfeiture case until federal prosecutors move forward with a criminal case against Cunningham. Cunningham will resist that motion as well.

— John Bresnahan