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Rep. Duncan Hunter’s Wife, Margaret, Pleads Guilty To Misusing Campaign Funds And More Local News

 June 14, 2019 at 3:48 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 It's Friday, June 14th I'm Andrew Bowen and you're listening to San Diego news matters. Coming up. The wife of Congressman Duncan Hunter pleads guilty to federal conspiracy charges. The congressmen's alleged infidelity may explain his wife split change the fact that he's actually engaging in activities that made these offenses more readily provable activities of infidelity against his wife and the episcopal diocese of San Diego gets its first female bishop. Those stories in more after the break. Speaker 2: 00:33 Good morning. It's June 14th I'm Andrew Bowen and you're listening to San Diego news matters. The wife of Congressman Duncan Hunter takes a deal. KPBS or porter. Matt Hoffman says Margaret Hunter pleaded guilty Thursday to violating campaign finance laws. Margaret Hunter changed her plea from not guilty to guilty for conspiring with Congressman Duncan Hunter to spend more than $200,000 in campaign funds for personal use. Now under a plea agreement, she is cooperating with prosecutors and it appears she will be testifying against her husband. Mrs. Hunter struck a deal to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. Mrs Hunters. Attorney Thomas Mcnamara read a statement outside the courthouse on her behalf. Speaker 3: 01:14 I have fully accepted responsibility for my conduct. I am deeply remorseful and I apologize. I am saddened for the hurt that I've caused my family and others. Speaker 2: 01:26 Part of Mrs Hunters plea agreement includes giving information and testifying in the case she faces up to five years in prison and is due back in court for sentencing in September. Matt Hoffman, K PBS news. Congressman Hunter issued a statement after his wife's guilty plea saying in part quote, it's obvious that the department of Justice went after her to get to me for political reasons. KPBS is Alison St John's spoke to Jason Forge, a former US attorney who prosecuted congressmen, Duke Cunningham in the 1990s that was the largest corruption case in congressional history. Forge says Duncan Hunter's alleged infidelity that was uncovered from financial documents may explain his wife's plead change. So now I'm Margaret Hunter has just pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy. How does this change the penalties that she's facing in this case? Speaker 4: 02:18 Well, it actually lowers the penalties significantly. And one of the most salient aspects of the plea agreement is that the government has already provided a recommendation that she has earned substantial credit for her cooperation with the government. Speaker 2: 02:33 What do you think could motivate her to change her plea here? Cause she pleaded not guilty last year Speaker 4: 02:40 as we saw from the level of detail in the indictment, there was an overwhelming amount of evidence against her. So that's the number one motivation. The second one is as everyone observed at the time, her husband took the very unusual and not necessarily very honorable approach of blaming his wife. A of these allegations seem to indicate that he was using campaign funds to pay for activities related to extra marital affairs. That yet we do actually have a a cut of hunter who said earlier that although the campaign he admitted they did make mistakes, he basically blamed his wife Margaret. And here's what he told Fox News shortly after he was indicted. Speaker 5: 03:17 You had on my finances throughout my entire military career and that can fit it all when I got into Congress cause I'm gone five days a week, I'm home for two. So, and she was also the camp, the campaign manager. So whatever she did on that, that'll be a, that'll be looked at too, I'm sure. But, uh, but I didn't do it. Speaker 4: 03:34 I mean, how feasible is it that he was unaware over a period of several years that he was using campaign contributions to live his lifestyle? Well beyond his means, given the level of detail that has been provided at both of the indictment and in this plea agreement, it does not seem remotely plausible. What are you seeing now? What kind of information could Margaret Hunter reveal now that would affect the outcome of this case? Well, she can reveal a tremendous amount of information that removes any ambiguity about a number of these transactions. Because as you can see in the plea agreement, this was also true in the indictment. Many of these transactions involve what are ordinarily routine family activities, holidays in Italy, dental expenses, Irish river dance competitions, those types of activities. And for a couple that was financially underwater to the point of hundreds of bounced checks and overdrawn credit cards, it's just not plausible that that wouldn't be a discussion between husband and wife and that he wouldn't be aware of it. Speaker 4: 04:33 But the fact that she's going to be testifying to that effect just eliminates any room for doubt. Do you think the prosecutors didn't have a strong enough case to win it and that's why they entered into this PDL with, with his wife? No, I wouldn't look at it that way at all. First of all, it's very common for the prosecution to try to cooperate a defendant a lower level of responsibility against a defendant of a higher level of responsibility. So they obviously view Mr. Hunter as being more culpable. In fact, it reinforces the strength of the case against her. I wanted to ask you to explain a comment that, uh, the congressman's attorney, Gregory Vega wrote. He says, we're aware of Mrs. Hunter scheduling a hearing to change your plea and that doesn't change anything regarding congressman hunter. There are still a significant motions that need to be litigated. Speaker 4: 05:19 Specifically the speech or debate clause of the US Constitution. What does he mean there or the speech or debate clause of the constitution is a clause that protects members of Congress from prosecution for their legislative activities. It's an essence, an important part of our separation of powers to make sure that individuals are not prosecuted for political reasons. If you were to look ahead at the Congressmen's political future had, is this plea deal do you think affect it? Well, I think that depends on his constituents and that depends on his opponent. The initial charges obviously did not dissuade a majority of the people in that district voting Speaker 2: 05:58 for him, so by the time of the next election he may be a convicted felon. They might think differently about voting for him again and he appears in court again next month and then the trial stops in the September. Jason, thanks so much for giving us a bit of your insights. My pleasure. In Arizona. The Scott Warren case resulted in a mistrial on Tuesday after jurors couldn't decide whether it was a crime for Warren to help migrants KPBS or porter. Malena spitzers says the case could have major implications for humanitarian groups operating along the San Diego, Tijuana border. Scott Warren is a volunteer for no more deaths, a faith based group working to stop the deaths of migrants and Arizona's desert border patrol agents. File Three Felony Charges Against Warren for helping a pair of Central American migrants do to say Garcia. Interim Executive Director with the San Diego nonprofit border angels worries. Speaker 2: 06:48 They could be the next target when we drop water at the desert. Border Patrol is very much present when we're there at photographing our vehicles, photographing our volunteers. It's all intimidation tactics. Border Angels, staff and volunteers have also been put on watch lists and interrogated at the border. Garcia says humanitarian activities like water drops or even more crucial. Since Trump's zero tolerance policy went into effect with migraines, taking more treacherous routes to avoid being apprehended. More than 7,000 migrant deaths have been reported in the desert border region in the last two decades. Saving a life is important and it should be without question that we should be allowed to do this kind of work. As for Scott Warren, his case remains in limbo with a conference set for July 2nd to discuss how to proceed. Halena Spitzer KPBS muse. It's a first for the episcopal diocese of San Diego. On Saturday, a woman will take over as its first female bishop KPBS reporter John Carol says she was officially welcome to the city on Thursday. Speaker 6: 07:54 The Reverend Canon Susan Brown snuck was elected earlier this year as the first female bishop in the diocese of San Diego's 46 year history Thursday morning at St Paul's Episcopal Cathedrals. Snook was welcomed by San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, along with local faith leaders from Islam and Judaism. Snook says she's glad to be in America's finest city and ready to get to work. Speaker 7: 08:17 I am excited. I am overwhelmed. I am overjoyed, and I am ready to jump into mission in this beautiful and great city. I'm ready to just start working on God's fearless love. Speaker 6: 08:31 Snoop comes to San Diego from the episcopal diocese of Oklahoma. She'll be consecrated as the diocese. Sixth, the Bishop in services set for this Saturday at Saint Paul's Cathedral. John Carroll key PBS News, Speaker 2: 08:44 San Diego International fringe wraps up this weekend. But there was one show debuting tonight at les girls and featuring Irish singer, dancer and sex worker Kate Mulgrew, KPBS arts reporter Speaker 8: 08:56 Beth Ahca, Mondo interviews lady grew about her show. And even sweeter paying. Speaker 9: 09:01 Kate, you have returned to San Diego friend and are bringing back your shows. Sweet Pang. So what can people expect from the show? Speaker 10: 09:09 Well, this is an even sweeter Pang. So as I sing rap, pull downs, clown, all of that will be in there. And you know, I'm always singing and rapping and clowning about sex work and female body autonomy and body autonomy in general. This here I'm bringing the show back and honor of Jim Morgan, you know, as activists, uh, for sex worker rights and for body autonomy and free expression. I exist in a long lineage of activists doing this work. And Jim fought and battled creatively and bravely to openly girls as a first nude club and himself and his beautiful, smart, brave wife Kata whose show was before mine, continue. Catia continues to do this fight against police corruption and for the fight for sex worker rights and for freedom of expression and body autonomy. Speaker 9: 10:08 And you identify yourself as a sex worker. Yes, that's right. And you used the show in part to kind of advocate for those kinds of rights and what kind of issues do you tackle in the shell? Speaker 10: 10:19 Oh my goodness. So I'm not sure if you heard, but Mexico has just decided to fully decriminalize the sex industry and this is a fantastic move. It's really kind of the, the baseline infrastructure that sex workers across the globe ask for an order for us to have what we need to, to be able to work as safely and as happily and with as much dignity as possible. So it's very challenging when the industry is criminalized and stigmatized for people to even be able to ask for support if they need it. And to have, you know, better legal options. That's what we ask for. And really respect. Respect is a huge, huge thing. I am touching on some really serious issues, you know, but I find that if we can talk about it in a way that makes people laugh or where they can, you know, relax into a song or get up and dance it kind of, um, you know, relax as people's minds where they might otherwise have had barriers and they might be more flexible in their thinking and let some of the messaging in for more consideration. Speaker 10: 11:30 This is why I do this. It's activism to me and it's singing and dancing. I mean it's, it's the joy and zen of what if none of us had to make money, what we would all be doing is just singing, dancing, eating and enjoying each other. So how has it as a performer, bringing a show to fringe, what does fringe offer you that you can't get else? It's always a great buzz being at fringe festivals, you know, because there's artists all around the place. I've noticed a really great trend and this year we're, after somebody show, they'll speak from the stage and say, is there anybody else in the audience who wants to promote their show? So there's a real sense of community and support and solidarity and it's just a great buzz around town. You know, Balboa Park is gorgeous, so it's been great for me to go out there and see shows. Speaker 10: 12:20 But we're really excited to bring people into lake girls theater as well. And when you perform it fringe, you don't have to have your show censored by anyone. You get to perform whatever it is that you'd like. Yeah. What's great about fringe is that it's the fringe. You know, it's really, um, a space where people can throw something and see what sticks. You know, it's much more experimental. People are in that mindset to see stuff where people are trying something out and where people are really pushing the boundaries and um, and encouraging people to think in different ways. So it's fantastic. And especially someplace like, like girls that's, you know, the setting of a place that that is also a strip club walking in has a certain free zone from the get go. So come on in. Speaker 8: 13:11 That was performer Kate Mulgrew talking about her fringe show and even sweeter paying that runs tonight through Sunday at les girls. I'm Andrew Bowen. Thanks for listening to the San Diego News matters podcast. Find more local news online@kpbs.org.

The wife of Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter has pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds for personal use. Plus, a look at how the case of an immigrant activist in Arizona could have major implications for humanitarian groups here along the California-Mexico border; and the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego welcomes Rev. Canon Susan Brown Snook, the first woman to be elected as bishop of the diocese.