- The Washington Times
Monday, December 2, 2019

Rep. Duncan Hunter said he will change his plea Tuesday to guilty in connection with various campaign finance violations and expects to go to jail, according to multiple reports.

The California Republican had pleaded not guilty on multiple counts of misappropriating campaign funds to finance vacations, oral surgery and even groceries and gas. He had maintained his innocence throughout, insisting he was the victim of overzealous prosecutors.

Mr. Hunter said in an interview that aired Monday that he will change his not guilty plea at a federal court hearing Tuesday. He said he wants to protect his three children from going through a trial.

“It’s important not to have a public trial for three reasons, and those three reasons are my kids,” he told a local television station.

Six months ago, Mr. Hunter’s wife and former campaign treasurer, Margaret Hunter, pleaded guilty to a scheme in which more than $200,000 in campaign contributions was diverted for the family’s personal use. She was prepared to testify against her husband, according to reports.

The couple was indicted on more than 60 counts in August 2018. Mr. Hunter, 42, could have faced decades in prison if convicted on all counts.

Mr. Hunter said he will accept the judge’s sentence. The couple could have faced decades in prison before the plea deals. His wife faces up to five years in prison.

“I think it’s important that people know I did make mistakes. I did not properly monitor or account for my campaign money,” he said. “Whatever my time in custody is, I will take that hit. My only hope is that the judge does not sentence my wife to jail. I think my kids need a mom in the home.”

Speculation was rife Monday that Mr. Duncan had reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors allowing him to plead guilty to fewer charges and perhaps receive more favorable sentencing, as is common in such arrangements.

He was scheduled to go to trial on all charges Jan. 22, a date his defense team had managed to postpone several times by mounting unsuccessful challenges against parts of the indictment.

This article is based in part on wire-service reports.

• James Varney can be reached at jvarney@washingtontimes.com.

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