SAN DIEGO — A federal judge Monday set a Sept. 10, 2019, trial date for recently re-elected Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, and his wife, who were indicted in August on charges they spent more than $250,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses.
Despite facing federal charges of conspiracy, wire fraud and falsification of records, Hunter captured 54 percent of the vote last month to defeat Democratic challenger Ammar Campa-Najjar and hold onto to his seat in the 50th Congressional District.
Gregory Vega, the lead attorney for Duncan Hunter, told U.S. District Judge Thomas Whelan that the defense has received “extensive discovery” from federal prosecutors, and that he would be ready for a motions hearing on July 29.
Trial for the Hunters could last an estimated three weeks, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Allen.
Following Monday morning’s brief court hearing, Hunter huddled with his legal team before heading to a waiting car, surrounded by reporters, camera crews and protesters, one of whom repeatedly yelled “You’re a scumbag, Duncan, you’re a scumbag,” as the congressman walked quickly away.
The 41-year-old former Marine was first elected to Congress in 2008 in the 52nd District. He succeeded his father, also named Duncan Hunter, who had represented the area in the House for nearly 30 years. Redistricting after the 2010 census shifted him to the 50th District that includes much of the East County, as well as Fallbrook, San Marcos, Escondido and Valley Center, as well as a small part of Riverside County.
The 60-count indictment alleges Hunter and his wife Margaret took money from campaign coffers as if they were personal bank accounts and falsified Federal Election Commission campaign finance reports to cover their tracks.
The indictment details scores of instances beginning in 2009 and continuing through 2016, in which the Hunters are accused of illegally using campaign money to pay for such things as family vacations to Italy, Hawaii and Boise, Idaho, school tuition, dental work, theater tickets and smaller purchases, including fast food, tequila shots, golf outings and video games.
Duncan Hunter has said that his wife handled his finances when he was in the military and continued to do so when he got into Congress. He has said he hasn’t done anything wrong and is looking forward to clearing his name at trial.
If the congressman is convicted, there is no constitutional provision or House rule that explicitly requires him to lose his seat, even if he is sent to prison or unable to vote on behalf of his district.