Congressman accused of misusing campaign funds for expenses including Italian vacation, airline ticket for a pet rabbit
SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Republican Congressman Duncan D. Hunter and his wife, Margaret, pleaded not guilty Thursday morning to federal charges they stole quarter million dollars in campaign funds to furnish their lavish lifestyle.
After the Hunters were indicted earlier this week for spending campaign money on expenses that included a $14,000 Italian vacation, a $600 airline ticket for a pet rabbit and thousands of dollars on routine items like groceries, bedding and other household items, Hunter said the charges were erroneous and politically motivated.
The Hunters are accused of conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States, wire fraud, falsification of records and prohibited use of campaign contributions, among other charges.
Standing before Judge William Gallo in San Diego, both Hunters remained defiant and showed little emotion. They pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.
When asked about bail or bond, Assistant US Attorney Phillip Halpern suggested $10,000 for Margaret Hunter and $15,000 for Duncan Hunter. Halpern explained that he did not consider either party to be a flight risk and noted their dire financial condition, which was outlined in the indictment.
“They don’t have any substantial assets whatsoever,” Halpern said. “A fairly low bond is appropriate in this case.”
The judge instructed Duncan Hunter that he needs to lawfully transfer his two firearms to someone else. “Yes, sir,” he said.
The congressman entered the courtroom with his lawyers, but not his wife, around 9:45 a.m. PT in a navy blue suit. Margaret Hunter arrived at court separately with her legal team and entered through a side door. Duncan Hunter and Margaret Hunter sat four seats apart in the courtroom after she entered.
They stood side by side as charges were read. Both were expressionless.
Duncan Hunter was represented at the hearing by Gregory Vega, who was the US Attorney for the Southern District of California from 1999 to 2001.
In an interview with ABC 10 San Diego on Wednesday, Hunter said the Department of Justice has become the law enforcement arm of the Democratic party and said that liberal leaning prosecutors were targeting him in the same way they have President Donald Trump.
Hunter’s comments over the last year have repeatedly implied that his wife is to blame for the suspicious purchases.
Asked pointedly by a reporter on Wednesday if his wife responsible for the personal charges, he said only that would all come out in court.