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Ex-California Rep. Duncan Hunter Gets 11 Months In Prison

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Former California Republican Rep. Duncan has been sentenced to 11 months in prison after pleading guilty to misspending campaign funds. The former Marine's defense attorneys had asked for home confinement.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Former San Diego Congressman Duncan Hunter jr was sentenced to 11 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to stealing more than $250,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses from trips and shopping sprees to private school tuition for his kids. Hunter is ordered to report to prison. May 29th officially closing the Hunter dynasty chapter in the 50th congressional district. KPBS reporter Priya Sridhar joined us with more. Priya, welcome. Thanks. So Hunter was sentenced to 11 months in prison. Prosecutors were seeking 14 months. Why did judge Thomas Wieland settle on 11? Right? So he could have been sentenced anywhere up to five years, but the prosecution had asked for 14 months. As you said, the defense had asked for 11 months, but they wanted that to be in home confinement. Uh, but they ended up meeting in the middle with 11 months in custody. Judge willin noted Hunter's military service as a factor in his decision and the fact that this was his first time offense and it was a nonviolent crime.

Speaker 1: 01:03 Um, the defense did submit over a hundred pages and basically character references, uh, helping to inform the judge's decision. But both the prosecutors and the defense said that they were happy with the 11 months in custody. He held the sentencing hearing despite many courtrooms closing down due to the Corona virus. Why was it so important to get this sentencing done now? Yeah, that's a great question. And one that as reporters, we were asking before we entered the courtroom, um, they did take a few extra precautions. They only allowed a 36 people into the courtroom, but surprisingly enough, it was actually Duncan Hunter himself that wanted the sentencing to be done. I guess the prosecutors had asked for a delay. Duncan Hunter said he wanted to get it over with and he actually thanked the judge for quote, accomplishing the mission. So it seemed like he just wanted to get it over with.

Speaker 1: 01:54 Um, part of that was in his remarks to the courtroom. He did say that he's hoping that the judge will quote, take sympathy on his wife, Margaret Hunter, the mother of his children, because they do have two teenage daughters in the home and she's set to be sentenced on April 7th. So I think he really did want his sentencing to happen before her is so that perhaps the prosecutors, when they're making their determination into how many months they want to suggest for her or years perhaps, that they would maybe give her some leniency if he got a longer term in custody. And prior to sentencing prosecutors presented 87 pages to the judge detailing how they repeatedly stole this money for a decade. What are some of the details in those documents? Right. So the prosecutors really wanted to show the judge that this wasn't an accident. This wasn't something that Dunkin Hunter was unaware of, which is what he initially tried to say when he first got indicted that his wife was essentially doing this without his knowledge.

Speaker 1: 02:51 Um, they were really trying to demonstrate that this was a pattern of behavior that went on for several years and that those funds actually bank private school tuition for his children, his wife shopping trips, weekend trips with several mistresses drinking parties in Washington, D C and then also small things, um, like a tin of chewing tobacco, um, books that he bought for, you know, his own personal enjoyment. So, and then probably the most famous one, which a lot of people have been enjoying on my Twitter account, um, is he flew his, uh, allegedly his rabbit whose name is Egbert from the West coast to the East coast. So he used some of the campaign funds for that. What's been the family's response to all this? Right. So Duncan Hunter sr, as I mentioned, came outside the courtroom and seemed really excited about addressing the press. He referenced the hatch act.

Speaker 1: 03:42 So the hatch act, um, restricts federal employees from participating in certain partisan political activities. And you may remember, we reported this a few weeks ago, uh, that the defense was actually trying to throw out, um, all of this again because they were trying to say that two of the prosecutors in this case had attended a Clinton fundraiser in LA Jolla in 2015 and that was something that was extensively addressed yesterday. And the judge essentially said that, you know, despite the evidence that these prosecutors did in fact attend the fundraiser, that he doesn't believe that, um, them being involved in that fundraising activity had anything to do with Dunkin Hunter's trial. But Dunkin Hunter sr essentially said this was a political witch hunt, which is something that Duncan Hunter jr had also been saying from day one, which is that the liberal department of justice is going after him because he's a conservative and this is all just a political witch hunt.

Speaker 1: 04:38 But obviously the judge didn't side with him in that argument and ultimately sentenced him to the, to the 11 months in custody. You know, right now the 50th congressional district is still without representation. So who's headed to the November runoff to replace Hunter seat? Right? So it was a pretty exciting primary election. Um, but, uh, now it's down to Darryl Eissa, who's the nine term Congressman that many of you guys are familiar with, um, versus a Mar camp in a jar on the Democrat side. And Amar came extremely close to beating Dunkin Hunter in the last election, but we have to remember the 50th is, uh, one of the last Republican strongholds in Southern California. So most of the people, uh, in the County Republican party are expecting that it's going to be a no brainer. It's going to go to Darryl Leisa. And that, you know, there was a little bit of a split in the vote when it was in the primary because it was between Carl DeMaio and Daryl Eissa. But now that we have the final Republican contender for the November election, that most likely people are expecting that it's going to go to Darryl Eissa who will then, whoever wins in November will take office in January. I've been speaking with KPBS reporter Prius or either Priya. Thank you so much. Thank you.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.