By Miriam Raftery
Photo: Activists have announced a rally Monday morning calling on Rep. Hunter to resign
June 29, 2019 (San Diego) – Congressman Duncan D. Hunter’s legal team has filed a motion asking a federal court in San Diego to deny the prosecution’s motion which seeks to admit evidence that Hunter’s alleged misuse of campaign funds included money spent on five extramarital affairs.
The defense team does not deny the affairs, but instead argues that evidence of intimate relationships is “salacious and prejudicial.”
Noting that the actual indictment lists 18 “personal relationships,” defense lawyers Gregory A. Vegas, Ricardo Arias and Phil B. Adams state, “Evidence that some of Mr. Hunter’s relationships were `intimate’ is neither relevant to whether any expenditure of campaign funds would have existed `irrespective of Mr Hunter’s campaign, nor necessary (or appropriate for the jury to consider when evaluating the case. The Government filed its Motion to publicly embarrass Mr. Hunter with evidence that reflects poorly on his character, and the minimal (if any) probative value of this evidence is substantially outweighed by the substantial risk of unfair prejudice.”
The prosecution, in its motion, argued that because three of the women were lobbyists and two were political staffers, it is necessary to make clear that the expenses went beyond meals or meetings that might be considered legitimate campaign or Congressional business. The expense reportedly included overnight vacations at a Lake Tahoe ski resort, a golf trip, and Uber rides for overnight visits to the homes of some of the women in Washington D.C.
The defense team further argues that even if the Court determines that such evidence has some “slight relevance to the issues in this case, it should still deny the Motion on the grounds that it constitutes impermissible character evidence..” The motion continues, “While this salacious evidence provides welcomed fodder for the media, as evidenced by the attention this motion received from both national and local news outlets, its questionable probative value is substantially outweighed by the unquestionable danger of unfair prejudice to Mr. Hunter.”
Hunter is accused of 60 counts of embezzling campaign funds for personal use and filing false campaign finance reports to cover up the crimes, along with his wife, Margaret. The expenditures in question also include family vacations to Italy and Hawaii, oral surgery bills, golf, clothing, jewelry, children’s tuition and airfare for the family’s pet rabbit, Eggburt.
Margaret Hunter recently pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and is reportedly cooperating with prosecutors in their case against her husband.
Prosecutors have indicated that they offered Hunter the opportunity to stipulate that the evidence related to personal relationships was true, which would have kept the evidence out of open court, but he declined to accept the offer.
Hunter’s trial is slated to begin in September. The next scheduled election in the district is a primary race next March, followed by a general election in September 2020. If the seat were to become vacant through resignation or expulsion from Congress, a special election would be held.
Hunter’s next court appearance is scheduled for Monday. A group calling itself “Flip the 50th” has announced it will hold a rally outside the federal courthouse at 333 Broadway at 9:30 a.m. Monday calling on the embattled 50th Congressional District’s Republican Congressman to resign.
Ammar Campa-Najjar, a Democrat running for the seat, sent a press release Friday floating rumors that Hunter was planning to resign. His campaign has referenced calls from pollsters reportedly received by some voters, asking if they would support former Republican Congressman Darrell Issa or Carl DeMaio, a former San Diego City Councilman and conservative radio commentator, for the seat.
But NBC published this flat denial from Hunter aide Michael Harrison, who responded, ““Congressman Hunter absolutely is not resigning.”
Other candidates who have declared interest in running for the seat include El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells, retired Navy Seal Larry Wilske, and Temecula Councilman Matt Rahn, all Republicans.