By JULIE WATSON
SAN DIEGO — The wife of U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter pleaded guilty Thursday to a single corruption count and agreed to testify against her husband at his trial on charges the couple spent more than $200,000 in campaign funds on trips, dinners, clothes and other personal expenses.
Margaret Hunter served as campaign chair for her husband, and after the couple was indicted last year the Republican congressman from California suggested his wife was to blame for any misuse of funds.They both pleaded not guilty but she reversed course and withdrew her plea Thursday during a brief federal court hearing.
In a statement read by her attorney after accepting a plea agreement that could send her to prison for up to five years, she said she accepts full responsibility for her actions.
“I am deeply remorseful, and I apologize,” she said.
Prosecutors allege the couple engaged in more than 30 illegal transactions totaling more than $200,000 between 2010 and 2016. The spending included money for trips to Italy, Hawaii and Las Vegas and expensive dinners, as well as more mundane items like shirts and tequila shots.
The improper spending occurred when the couple knew their household budget was in tatters and they were being charged tens of thousands of dollars for overdrafts and credit card fees, authorities said.
In her plea agreement, Margaret Hunter said she would help the prosecution and testify on their behalf. She also agreed to provide documents.
Duncan Hunter said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press that political reasons prompted the U.S. Justice Department to pressure his wife to testify.
The congressman, a close ally of President Donald Trump, said after he was indicted last year that the Justice Department was “the Democrats arm of law enforcement.”
He said Thursday that the case should have been handled by the Federal Elections Commission and alleged U.S. prosecutors indicted him and his wife ahead of the November elections “to inflict as much political damage as possible in hopes of picking up a congressional seat.”
“It was politically motivated at the beginning, it remains politically motivated now,” he said.
Margaret Hunter is set to be sentenced Sept. 17. Her husbands trial is set for Sept. 10.
The California congressmans attorney, Gregory Vega, told the San Diego Union-Tribune that Margaret Hunters decision should have no impact on his clients federal corruption case.
The alleged misuse of funds occurred from 2010 to 2016.
Since the indictment, the Hunters have entered U.S. court in San Diego separately with their own attorneys and also have left separately. Rep. Hunter did not attend his wifes hearing Thursday.
In an interview with Fox News last year, the six-term congressman said his campaign made mistakes, that he gave his wife power of attorney when he deployed as a Marine to Iraq in 2003, and that she handled his finances during his last five terms in office.
Former U.S. prosecutor Jason A. Forge said its rare for one spouse to plead out when the others case has not been resolved. Her cooperation and testimony could significantly strengthen and already strong case, he said.Forge prosecuted California Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, who resigned from Congress in 2005 and served more than seven years in prison for one Read More – Source