SAN DIEGO (AP) — A federal judge Tuesday sentenced former California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter to 11 months in prison after pleading guilty for stealing his campaign funds and spending the money on everything from outings with friends to his daughter’s birthday party.
The ex-Marine’s defense attorneys had asked for home confinement, citing his military service including fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his nearly six terms in Congress. Hunter resigned from Congress in January after representing one of Southern California’s last solidly Republican districts.
Prosecutors submitted 87 pages of details to U.S. District Court Judge Thomas J. Whelan ahead of Tuesday’s sentencing that showed a corrupt congressman who intentionally and repeatedly stole from his campaign funds for a decade.
Whelan also sentenced him to three years of supervised release.
The funds bankrolled private school tuition for his children, his wife’s shopping sprees, weekend trips with his mistress and drinking parties in Washington.
A broke and debt-saddled Hunter also cavalierly spent campaign money on small things, such as a tin of chewing tobacco, and a copy of the book, “Why We Suck: A Feel Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid,” according to prosecutors.
And after he was caught, he ran for reelection and tried to convince voters in the district east of San Diego that as a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, he was the victim of a political witch hunt by left-leaning prosecutors trying to drive him out of office in Democratic California.
A year after winning a sixth term, Hunter pleaded guilty to a single corruption charge. He and his wife, who served as his campaign manager, each faces up to five years in jail.
Prosecutors said a 14-month prison sentence is needed to punish a lawmaker who misled his constituents and whose wrongdoing has now left the 50th congressional district without a representative. Hunter resigned from Congress in January. A Democrat and Republican are headed to a November runoff for his seat.
“As we now know, Hunter lied to the people about his guilt. Not once, but countless times. In doing so, he conned voters into electing a soon-to-be-convict,” prosecutors wrote in their arguments for the prison term.
The Hunters were accused in a 60-count indictment of stealing more than $250,000 in campaign contributions and trying to hide it on financial disclosure records, listing some personal expenses as contributions to wounded warriors.
Each pleaded guilty to a single count in separate plea agreements last year.
Defense attorneys say he deserves 11 months in home confinement because of his military and public service. They said he saved thousands of San Diego jobs on the chopping block and helped craft laws to better the lives of veterans.
His parents wrote a letter pointing out his bravery in signing up for the Marine Corps the day after the Sept. 11 attacks, and a Democratic colleague, San Diego Rep. Juan Vargas, penned that “Mr. Hunter needs special counseling and treatment after fighting our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Hunter is not the first congressmen accused of the illegal use of campaign money. Prosecutors compared Hunter’s case to that of former Illinois Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr., who got 30 months for stealing $750,000 in campaign funds.
Hunter’s defense lawyers compare him to former California Rep. Jay Kim, who was spared prison time in 1998 and sentenced to two months home confinement after he admitted to taking more than $250,000 in illegal campaign contributions.
Hunter’s conviction ended his family’s political dynasty in the 50th congressional district. Hunter won the seat after his father. Hunter L. Duncan, represented the area of suburbs and farm towns for 28 years before retiring.