Rep. Duncan Hunter to abandon ‘not guilty’ plea in campaign finance scandal
After years of denials and claims he was the target of a political witch hunt, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, is scheduled to appear in federal court Tuesday morning to change his plea of not guilty to charges stemming from a sweeping campaign finance investigation.
The announcement was posted on the U.S. District Court docket Monday morning without any supplemental documentation.
“Notice of change of hearing as to defendant Duncan D. Hunter,” the docket entry states. “Change of Plea Hearing set for 12/3/2019 10:00 AM in Courtroom 3C before Judge Thomas J. Whelan.”
The reversal comes nearly six months after Hunter’s wife and former campaign treasurer, Margaret Hunter, admitted to her role in a widespread scheme that saw the couple allegedly spend more than $200,000 in campaign donations on family expenses like vacations, gas, groceries, school lunches and oral surgery. Such spending is prohibited to prevent undue influence by contributors.
“It’s important not to have a public trial for three reasons, and those three reasons are my kids,” Hunter told KUSI in an interview aired just minutes after the court notice.
It was not immediately clear what specific crime Hunter might admit when he appears in San Diego federal court Tuesday, or what agreement his lawyers made with prosecutors relating to a possible prison sentence or an end to Hunter’s congressional tenure. The congressman was seeking re-election but typically a guilty plea would include an agreement to step down.
The trial, which already was pushed back twice as defense attorneys challenged various claims in the federal indictment, was scheduled to begin Jan. 22.
Prosecutors, along with the defendant, were due in court Tuesday morning to debate Hunter’s latest motions over whether defense attorney Paul Pfingst has a conflict of interest defending his client because Pfingst’s law firm represented witnesses in the case. The change of plea hearing will …read more
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