Saturday, January 17, 2009

A tale of two F-4 Phantom pilots: A hero named Sully versus a sullied reputation

January 17th, 2009

Dear Readers,

The "miracle on the Hudson" earlier this week forced me to think about a traumatic event that occurred just over three years ago, when another ex-F4 pilot used his skill and training for another purpose. An evil purpose: Attempted murder-suicide.

WAS it the event that triggered Gonzo-gate and helped destroy the Bush Administration? The event everyone is looking for but no one can find? Since the Bush Administration destroys information with alarming regularity, we may never be told the truth.

So here once more is a fresh recounting of the events of November 25th, 2005, about 8:35 pm, when Randall Harold "Duke" Cunningham, who was then the United States Congressman from my district, attempted to commit suicide. First, Cunningham tried to flip his car in a lone accident. When that failed, he tried to smash the car he was driving head-on at high speed into the car I was driving, a Honda Passport.

The full story of how I avoided him is available online in an animation I created in 2007, shortly after surviving another harrowing experience -- bladder cancer. I figured I better lay it down for historic purposes while I'm still here.

I recognized Cunningham as the assailant three days after his attack, when he appeared on television to resign from Congress. Then, I realized that my wife and I were not only the victims of a vicious and unconscionable attack, but that the aftermath was a clear case of "celebrity justice" of the worst sort, for it was combined with additional special privileges for high government officials.

When U.S. Airways Flight 1549 ditched in the Hudson River -- the first time a commercial jet had successfully ditched in any body of water -- another F4 pilot showed what Cunningham's training could have been used for. Like Sully, Cunningham was also an F4 pilot -- the last ace there will ever be, with five "kills" in Vietnam. He probably trained Sully.

As Cunningham attacked us, in his mind he must have been back in combat, attempting to get one more kill. Out of bullets in his warped fantasy, he was going to ram us. My wife and I were objects, enemies, non-humans, inconsequential. We still are to him, and to the legal system which protects him.

The letter shown below was sent to Mr. Cunningham at Tucson State Penitentiary in Arizona, where he currently resides on unrelated charges. Copies were also sent to the DoJ and to the judge who sentenced Mr. Cunningham in the other cases., and to the District Attorney. I don't expect any answers, but nor do I expect to be sued for libel or charged with filing false police reports, making false statements, etc.. This is what really happened.

I don't think the sheriffs who helped Cunningham that night could keep their stories straight to the Internal Affairs office, especially if the Federal agent I'm sure was involved told even half the truth to his employers, in the hope of leniency for himself. Of course, that assumes that, behind the scenes, the DoJ actually DID investigate this affair at least a little -- before people started getting pulled from the case -- especially Carol Lam, who is in some part culpable for what happened.

Lam was the U. S. Attorney who made the government's deal with Cunningham, in the days before his suicide / murder attempt. So the Bush Administration wanted to get her out of office, to keep the matter quiet. To cover the firing of one U.S. Attorney without any apparent reason, they tried firing a slew of U. S. Attorneys. The Bush Administration had problems with other attorneys and liked the idea of a mass-firing, but everyone seems to agree that it was Lam who was most targeted, and I believe her role in what you are about to read is the real reason.

For more information, please visit my web site and click on "Seven Seconds in San Marcos."


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA


Randall Harold "Duke" Cunningham
Federal Prisoner Registration # 94405-198
P.O. BOX 24550
TUCSON, AZ 85734

January 17th, 2009

Mr. Cunningham,

Earlier this week in New York, Chesney B."Sully" Sullenberger III showed what an F-4 Phantom pilot can do. What they can use their training and experience for. It could have been you receiving those accolades.

Not only did he ditch the Airbus A-320 aircraft successfully in the Hudson River after a flock of birds knocked out both engines, but afterwards, he and the other four crew members helped get all the passengers off the plane. Then Sully walked up and down the plane again -- twice -- to be sure everyone really was off.

You, on the other hand, used all your skill and training as a fighter pilot to try to crash your Chevy Tracker head-on in a Kamikaze-style attack into the Honda Passport I was driving on the night of November 25th, 2005, on Mission Road in San Marcos, California. And then you drove off into the darkness. Then, you colluded with the San Marcos sheriffs, who undoubtedly helped you abandon your car -- and probably even gave you a ride home after your attempted murder-suicide! Astounding! But that's how bad things had gotten in the Bush years.

After I successfully foiled your evil plan, you still hit -- with hostile intent -- the back of my car. A flick of your wrist AWAY from me at that final moment would have avoided an accident entirely. But you, consciously and deliberately, chose to hit my car, with me and my wife in it -- a very dangerous move, even if it isn't as dangerous as a head-on collision.

Three days later you resigned from office, confessed to other crimes, and pretended to the public that you were a changed man, now cooperating with police. But you did NOT cooperate with ALL the investigations! You did not cooperate with ANY of mine.

As we passed just inches apart, my wife didn't think to look at who was trying to kill her and me that night. I, however, looked. When you resigned from Congress the following Monday, I recognized you as our assailant from the prior Friday evening.

Not long ago, I heard that you hope to be pardoned by George Bush. Perhaps, in one of his last acts as President, he WILL pardon you.

I hope not, because I only feel reasonably safe from you while you are in jail.

But it's not just me. Others would also be in danger. So, if the state lets you out of jail for ANY reason, including simply that you've done your time, I'll immediately charge the state with endangering the public. And I'll have a very strong case. You think you're some kind of special person, who can get away with murder, or at the very least, attempted murder. I don't blame you for thinking that, based on what actually happened. But nevertheless, the danger such thoughts cause for the rest of us citizens is real. I've experienced your recklessness AND your anger -- and your arrogance.

You are NOT a responsible person. Who will you kill next time you feel like committing suicide for any reason? Or will you hunt ME down when you get out of jail, or help others to do so, in order to silence the only witness who saw your face (except those in law enforcement)?

If anything happens to me, every one of my friends and family will already suspect you or the police involved in helping you that night.

You'll never be like Sully, but every day, you have the chance to redeem yourself -- to tell the truth about what you did that night. Then, the psychiatrists could be held accountable, because they negligently helped you when you should already have been in jail, instead of in Congress and driving around San Marcos knowing you're supposed to resign soon.

I know that the deal had already been made with Carol Lam. My father, Howard S. Hoffman, a World War Two combat veteran and experimental psychologist (who has since passed on) suggested the Google search which revealed that information. You were given the Thanksgiving holiday week to put your affairs in order and write your resignation speech.

Instead, you used that time to decide that suicide was a better option, and went out the night after Thanksgiving by yourself, and tried to flip your Chevy Tracker -- basically a later-model "Suzuki Samurai" (which you apparently borrowed from a friend) in a lone accident. Undoubtedly, you knew at the time that those types of cars were famous for rolling over in accidents. I saw your last attempt to flip it, but heard from witnesses immediately after the accident that you had been driving extremely dangerously just beforehand. You may have been drunk, as they thought, but you weren't so drunk you didn't know you were trying to flip your own car.

But it wasn't working. What you didn't know was that the designers and engineers of the Chevy Tracker / Suzuki Samurai had worked very hard to solve the rollover problem. As you surely know from your pilot days, a little tweak here and there to the balance or configuration of a plane, car, bike or motorcycle can greatly effect the handling characteristics.

When you couldn't flip your Chevy Tracker, you did the next-best-thing (in your mind): You aimed for my wife and me in our Honda Passport, which was just a pair of headlights to you at that distance, more than two football fields away. After your last attempt to flip your car, you saw my headlights and aimed right at them.

I had already alerted Sharon (my wife) to your crazy driving. I immediately nudged her shoulder and pointed straight ahead and said, "LOOK AT THIS GUY!!" The alarm in my voice could not have been mistaken. I had seen you almost spill your own blood on the street, and you were right in front of us -- already in our lane, but aimed towards your proper lanes. At that moment, I had a good profile view of your vehicle.

You immediately straightened out your car -- in MY LANE! And I could see you were accelerating -- the two lights were separating, and getting bigger and brighter, too. A friend had a Suzuki Sumurai, so I knew the comparative handling characteristics of our two vehicles, which were this:

Your's could turn tighter, accelerate faster, and brake in less distance. You had all the advantages.

So how did I win?

It wasn't easy. First, I turned to the right. I exaggerated the motion, because when you went crazy in front of me I had immediately braked to a much slower speed -- around twenty miles per hour. When you started coming straight at me, I turned to the next lane over to my right, and tried to give you my original lane, since you seemed to want it for some reason, and were coming fast and furious. I thought you were being chased by cops. Boy was I off about that!

You didn't want my lane, you wanted ME. You immediately moved into my rightmost lane too -- two lanes from your closest legal lane! When it was clear that you were doing this, I moved back over to my original lane -- again at relatively slow speed, but with greatly exaggerated motions so that you could clearly see what I was doing. You continued to accelerate.

When you saw me move back to my original lane, you followed immediately and exactly -- I could not shake you. Your precision was absolute.

I straightened out in my original lane because that seemed the best way to let you know exactly where I would be, so you could decide how best to get around me. Part of me still HOPED -- despite several moves which PROVED the contrary -- that you were NOT REALLY trying to have a head-on collision.

But you were. We were still about a football field away, and your speed was already over 30 miles per hour, and you were still coming right at us, no matter where I went. That meant you'd be going at highway speeds when we collided. Every clue screamed out that this wasn't a game.

At that point, I could "hope" no longer. I turned to prayer, instead. "Oh, Jesus." I said. I didn't know what else to do. You were coming at us, and there was no way to turn away. Every time I tried, you followed immediately and precisely. If I kept trying, it was obvious to all -- you, me, and my wife, in the seat next to me -- what would happen: Three people were about to die. For no reason -- it wasn't going to be an accident, though you were obviously hoping it would look like one. It would be murder and suicide.

But it turned out that waiting, doing nothing, was actually the right thing to do! By God's grace, I had recently learned exactly how to handle a case like this, from a trained driving instructor who just happened to have a relative who had been through something very much like what you were doing.

It took more than a year to remember where I learned it, but just before talking to the "CLERB" (the powerless and toothless citizen's review board for the San Diego Sheriff's Department), it came to me: It was a local (Carlsbad) driving instructor's video shown on public access cable television! And here's what you MUST do: Wait, and let the other driver (in this case, YOU) gain speed.

That was the right thing to do, and I just sort of found myself doing it. Lucky me. Lucky you. Lucky Sharon.

I slowed down even more, to give you even more time to gain speed before you got to my car. Than, I accelerated directly at you without turning at all, so that you could not know until I began my turn, which side I would turn to. When I turned, I turned to my left -- normally, your side. I figured: You weren't using that side, and weren't planning to. Because this was no game.

With our speed differences, my car would have more maneuverability than yours would, and I could evade you even if you followed my turn -- but only if I waited long enough, and then accelerated fast enough, and turned tight enough to avoid you. And got lucky, too.

As expected, when you saw me suddenly turn at the last moment -- after we both had been going straight at each other for about three seconds and you had been chasing my lights for about six seconds -- you turned towards me, and continued to try to have a high-speed, head-on, FATAL collision.

In the end, I thought we would pass each other by inches, but instead, you purposefully and angrily hit the back end of my car -- a very dangerous move for both of us -- and it almost flipped your car when you did it. Then you sped off, and the cops helped you get home.

You STILL have the chance to tell your side. If you don't, you will never know what could have been. If they let you out on the streets, I will wonder if you are trying to contact your friend who owned the Chevy Tracker, to check on your story for that night. Or the cops who helped you. Or the psychiatrists who knew you were having "suicidal ideations" as one put it, but didn't take away your keys or do anything to protect the public.

For your continued arrogance and uncooperativeness in this matter, I recommend you stay in jail as long as possible. Being eligible for parole, or even completing your sentence, should NOT be a reason to let you out on the streets again. You remain a threat to society.


Ace Hoffman
Sharon Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA