Duncan Hunter’s trial appears on track to be postponed

California Republican faces avalanche of charges relating to alleged misuse of campaign cash

Rep. Duncan Hunter is seeking a delay in the start of his trial on campaign corruption charges. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Lawyers involved in Rep. Duncan Hunter’s trial on charges that he inappropriately spent $250,000 in campaign funds for massive bar tabs and elaborate vacations to Hawaii and Italy are asking a California judge to have the proceedings delayed until Oct. 29.

A joint status report filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California seeks to move the trial, currently scheduled to begin Sept.10, to October. But the date proposed by lawyers for both the California Republican and the government could change based on court schedules and the status of appeals. More will be known after a district court hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

The judge in the case, Thomas J. Whelan, denied Hunter’s motion to dismiss the 60-count indictment last month, saying it was “wholly without merit.” The congressman had argued that the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution protects him from prosecution over certain legislative acts or from being questioned in any other place, though legal experts have panned that argument

Hunter has appealed that decision before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. And the government has sought to dismiss his appeal. Neither side appears to want the district-level trial to proceed until the 9th Circuit has issued a ruling, as the request for postponing the trial would indicate. (Still, the government did note Monday that it would also file a motion to allow the district court to proceed with Hunter’s trial before the appellate court reaches a decision. Hunter’s lawyer plans to oppose that move.)

Hunter and his wife, Margaret, were indicted in August of last year. Margaret Hunter has since pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to misuse campaign funds that carries a sentence of up to five years and a $250,000 fine.

The indictment alleges Hunter spent over $14,000 on a family vacation in Italy in November 2015 and more than $6,500 for a family vacation to Hawaii in April 2015. He also allegedly spent campaign funds on alcohol, including a $462.46 expenditure for 30 tequila shots and a steak at El Tamarindo in Washington, D.C., in March of 2016 for a bachelor party. 

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