SAN DIEGO — Former California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter was sentenced Tuesday to 11 months in prison after pleading guilty to stealing campaign funds and spending the money on everything from outings with friends to his daughter’s birthday party.

The ex-Marine’s attorneys had asked for most or part of his sentence be spent in home confinement, citing his military service fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his nearly six terms in Congress. Hunter, 43, resigned from Congress in January after representing one of Southern California’s last solidly Republican districts.

But U.S. District Court Judge Thomas J. Whelan said given the amount of money Hunter misspent and the number of years he carried out the pilfering, home confinement was not an option.

Prosecutors ahead of Tuesday’s sentencing submitted 87 pages to the judge that showed a corrupt congressman who intentionally and repeatedly stole from his campaign funds for a decade.

Hunter and his wife, Margaret, who was his campaign manager, were accused in a 60-count indictment of stealing more than $250,000 in campaign funds and trying to hide it on financial disclosure records, listing some personal expenses as contributions to wounded warriors.

The money bankrolled private school tuition for his children, his wife’s shopping sprees, weekend trips with his mistress and parties in Washington, according to the indictment.


Each pleaded guilty to a single count in separate plea agreements last year, and each had faced up to five years in prison. His wife, who was not present Tuesday, is scheduled to be sentenced April 7.

Hunter, who admitted to conspiring with his wife to misspend $150,000, asked the court Tuesday to spare the mother of his three children jail time, and said he takes full responsibility. He showed little emotion as his father, former Rep. Duncan L. Hunter, sat behind him.

The hearing was held despite many state and federal courts across California and the country all but shutting down or holding hearings by teleconference to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

The judge said the full courtroom did not exceed 50 people, meeting federal recommendations.

Whelan said the hearing went ahead as planned at Hunter’s request. Federal judges in San Diego have held many call-in hearings when parties of a case could not be present.

Prosecutors said a 14-month prison sentence was needed to punish a lawmaker who lied to his constituents and whose wrongdoing has now left the 50th congressional district without a representative. A Democrat and Republican are headed to a November runoff for his seat.


After the hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Phil Halpern said he was happy with the sentence.

“Today’s sentence reinforces the notion that the truth still matters, that facts still matter,” he said.

A broke and debt-saddled Hunter 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 re-election and tried to convince voters in the district east of San Diego that as a staunch supporter of President Trump, he was the victim of a political witch hunt by left-leaning prosecutors trying to drive him out of office in Democratic California.

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.

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