updated 10/8/2006 8:53:33 AM ET 2006-10-08T12:53:33

Disgraced former congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham lashed out at the reporter who uncovered the corruption scandal that sent him to prison, telling him in a letter that his "constant cruelty" had nearly destroyed Cunningham's life.

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The former Navy "Top Gun" pilot also blasted defense contractor Mitchell Wade, who helped implicate him to authorities.

"Wade is the absolute devil," Cunningham wrote in the four-page, handwritten letter, excerpts of which were published Saturday on the San Diego Union-Tribune's Web site.

Wade has pleaded guilty to giving Cunningham more than $1 million in bribes and is awaiting sentencing. His lawyer said he would have no comment on the letter.

Marcus Stern, the Copley News Service reporter who broke the news last year of Cunningham's corruption, said he didn't take the former congressman's remarks personally.

"I just felt this was a guy in anguish," Stern told The Associated Press on Saturday.

Stern said he wrote to Cunningham in early September, requesting an interview. The Union-Tribune said Cunningham's letter was dated Sept. 15.

"I hurt more than anyone could imagine and without my faith your constant cruelty would destroy me," Cunningham wrote.

Confessed to taking bribes
The Republican, who held seats on powerful House intelligence and appropriations committees, admitted last November that he accepted $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors in exchange for government contracts and other favors.

Among other things, Wade said he gave Cunningham expensive rugs, furniture and jewelry, as well as cash, in exchange for support for his company's efforts to win defense contracts.

"I should have said no to the gifts. For that, I am truly sorry," Cunningham wrote.

Cunningham was sentenced in March to more than eight years in federal prison and is being housed at a low-security correctional center in North Carolina.

"Each time you print it hurts my family and now I have lost them along with everything I have worked for during my 64 years of life," Cunningham wrote. "I am human not an animal to keep whipping."

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