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Trial date set for indicted Rep. Duncan Hunter, wife Margaret

The Hunters are accused of misusing campaign funding
Posted: 7:40 AM, Dec 03, 2018
Updated: 2018-12-03 20:46:00Z
Duncan Hunter court Dec 3, 2018

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A federal judge set a trial date for newly re-elected Rep. Duncan Hunter and his wife, Margaret, who were indicted in August on charges they spent more than $250,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses.

Federal prosecutors and the Hunters’ defense team agreed on a Sept. 10, 2019, trial date in San Diego. The trial is expected to last about three weeks.

Hunter and his wife arrived at the downtown courthouse separately on Monday morning, and both did not take questions from the media as they entered.

In the courtroom, the Hunters sat away from each other prior to being called before the judge. When it was over, they left the courthouse separately.

10News learned motions would need to be filed by June 24, with a motions hearing set for July 29.

The Hunters’ legal team said they needed the extra time because they received what they referred to as “extensive discovery from the government.” The defense was granted more access to unspecified files necessary to their case.

Despite the federal charges of conspiracy, wire fraud and falsification of records, Hunter, a Republican from Alpine, beat Democratic challenger Ammar Campa-Najjar last month to hold onto to his seat in the 50th Congressional District.

Hunter, a 41-year-old former Marine first elected to Congress in 2008, succeeded his father, also named Duncan Hunter, who had represented the area in the House for nearly 30 years. The district includes much of the East County, as well as Fallbrook, San Marcos, Escondido and Valley Center.

At the last court hearing in September, attorneys for Duncan Hunter and his wife told Judge Thomas Whelan that the case was complex, but federal prosecutors said the case was a fairly straightforward.

The 60-count indictment alleges Hunter and his wife 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.

Gregory Vega, the lead attorney for the lawmaker, has contended the charges are politically motivated.

Duncan Hunter has said that his wife handled his finances when he was in the military and that continued 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 Hunter were to be convicted of the charges against him, he could still serve the 50th District -- as it would take a two-thirds majority vote in the House to expel him.

City News Contributed to this report