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Duncan Hunter Corruption Trial Pushed Back Till Late January
Monday, October 7, 2019
Photo by Matt Hoffman
A federal judge on Monday pushed Congressman Duncan Hunter's corruption trial back to a date later in January.
Hunter and his wife, Margaret Hunter, were indicted in August 2018, on 60 counts of misusing campaign funds for personal use and falsifying Federal Election Commission campaign finance reports.
This is the second time U.S. District Judge Thomas Whelan has delayed the trial. Both delays have to do with Hunter's attempt to have the case thrown out on constitutional grounds.
The congressman claims his rights under the Constitution's speech or debate clause have been violated. He's argued in a motion that he cannot be prosecuted for actions that are considered part of his job as a legislator.
Whelan dismissed the motion in July, saying the claim was "wholly without merit."
Hunter appealed the ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The appellate court agreed to hear Hunter's case on Dec. 12, ahead of his criminal trial. If the 9th Circuit, and ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court, agree with Hunter, then his case could be dismissed before the Jan. 22 trial date.
Prosecutors said the appeal is a tactic to delay the trial and they have asked the courts to dismiss it.
Former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California Chuck La Bella said Hunter’s appeal touches on an important issue.
“Legislative privilege is a real privilege and I’ve done a lot of corruption cases a lot of political corruption cases," La Bella said. "It’s like the attorney-client privilege and legislators take it seriously and they want to challenge it."
Whelan said he’d like to get the case resolved before the March primary for the sake of both Hunter and voters. Hunter’s attorney said they wanted to keep the trial start date as close to January as possible.
The trial might be delayed again by Hunter depending on how the 9th Circuit rules on his appeal.
“Once the decision comes down, then it’s a question of whether or not they apply for certiorari with the Supreme Court — which means the Supreme Court could or could not take the case on appeal,” La Bella said.
Recent polling shows that Hunter is running behind several other candidates in the race for his 50th district seat.
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