Politics

Former California Rep. Duncan Hunter sentenced to 11 months for misuse of campaign funds

Key Points
  • Rep. Duncan Hunter has been sentenced to 11 months in prison and three years of supervised probation, according to NBC's San Diego TV station KNSD.
  • Hunter faced a maximum of five years in jail, but prosecutors asked Judge Thomas Whelan to impose a much lighter sentence, recommending 14 months.
  • Hunter and his wife were charged with 60 criminal counts of campaign finance violations in August 2018 ahead of the midterm election.
  • In December, he pleaded guilty to a single felony count of misuse of campaign funds, and he resigned on Jan. 7.
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) walks into Federal Courthouse on December 3, 2019 in San Diego, California.
Sandy Huffaker | Getty Images

After years of denying any wrongdoing, former Rep. Duncan Hunter has been sentenced to 11 months in prison and three years of supervised probation, according to NBC's San Diego TV station KNSD.

A California Republican who represented the state's 50th Congressional district, Hunter and his wife were charged with 60 criminal counts of campaign finance violations in August 2018 ahead of the midterm election. They faced allegations of spending campaign funds on personal items such as vacations, gas, groceries -- and airfare for a pet rabbit.

Federal Election Commission finance rules prohibit spending campaign funds for personal use.

Hunter initially denied any wrongdoing, pleading not guilty and dubbing his prosecution a "witch hunt."

But in December, he swiftly changed course. 

In an interview with KUSI News when he announced his plan to change his plea, Hunter said, "I think it's important that people know that I did make mistakes. I did not properly monitor or account for my campaign money. I justify my plea with the understanding that I am responsible for my own campaign and my own campaign money."

In December, he pleaded guilty to a single felony count of misuse of campaign funds, but he stayed on in his lawmaker role for a month longer, resigning only on Jan. 7. Even after submitting his guilty plea, Hunter continued to receive his taxpayer-funded salary, which is about $477 per day, according to the Huffington Post.

Hunter, 43, faced a maximum of five years in jail, but prosecutors asked Judge Thomas Whelan to impose a much lighter sentence on account of the December deal, recommending 14 months instead.

Whelan, who presided over Hunter's case, delivered the sentence in San Diego's Southern District of California court. The judge ordered Hunter to surrender to the court on May 29 due to concerns over the increasingly deadly coronavirus outbreak, according to a PBS reporter. 

Despite concerns related to the coronavirus, the trial took place in person, with several parties who are within the age range that health officials cite as the most vulnerable to the outbreak. Whelan is 80 years old, and Hunter's attorney Paul Pfingst is in his late 60s, according to the Times of San Diego.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom decided not to call a special election to replace Hunter, his office told CNBC in January, meaning California's 50th Congressional district will go unrepresented until the November midterm elections.

Margaret, Hunter's wife and former campaign treasurer, took a plea deal earlier this year. She admitted to her role in the scandal and agreed to testify against her husband.

Hunter was first elected to his seat in 2008. He won again in November 2018 with 51.7% of the vote, despite facing indictment.

His family has served in Congress for decades. Hunter's father was in the House for 28 years before him.