SAN DIEGO—U.S. Representative Duncan Hunter, a leading California conservative, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a single federal charge of conspiring to misuse campaign funds in a corruption case that could help Democrats gain his traditionally Republican seat.
The felony offense carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, but his attorney has said prosecutors have agreed to recommend significantly less time than that. Sentencing was set for March 17.
Hunter, 42, a U.S. Marine Corps combat veteran and early supporter of President Donald Trump, initially pleaded not guilty in the case insisting he was the victim of a politically motivated prosecution.
He appeared Tues. Dec. 3, before U.S. District Judge Thomas Whelan in San Diego for a hearing lasting less than 10 minutes, calmly answering “guilty” when the judge asked for his plea to a single count of conspiring to convert campaign funds to personal use.
Pausing outside the courthouse afterward, Hunter, dressed in a dark suit and tie, told a throng of reporters, “I made mistakes, and thats what today was all about.”
Hunter and his wife, Margaret, were indicted in 2018 on charges of misappropriating $250,000 in campaign donations to pay for personal expenses, including their childrens private school tuition, lavish travel, expensive meals at restaurants, groceries, and clothing.
Margaret Hunter pleaded guilty in June to conspiring to misuse campaign funds and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the case. She is yet to be sentenced.
Appearing on local television on Monday, Hunter said he had decided to plead guilty to spare his family the spectacle of a trial that was scheduled to open next month.
Hunter also indicated, without saying so explicitly, that he would not seek re-election next year to the San Diego congressional seat he first won in 2008, succeeding his father and fellow Republican, Duncan Lee Hunter, who attended Tuesdays hearing.