MANHATTAN (CN) – Conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to pay a $30,000 fine for campaign finance fraud stemming from his use of straw donors to contribute to a U.S. Senate candidate in New York in 2012.
D’Souza, 53, raked in millions on a book and documentary film premised on the theory that President Barack Obama secretly works to subvert Western states in order to advance his father’s supposed anti-colonialist leanings.
Entertainment Weekly called that film, “2016: Obama’s America,” the highest grossing conservative documentary ever made, a “nonsensically unsubstantiated act of character assassination.”
The conservative darling styles himself as a defender of Christian morality and an opponent of people he casts as oppressive liberals in Washington.
When the FBI fingered D’Souza for a campaign finance fraud in support of Wendy E. Long – a friend from his days at Dartmouth College, who was running to unseat Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, a Democrat – he initially maintained he was being selectively prosecuted for his controversial views.
A federal judge rejected his persecution claims, and D’Souza pleaded guilty on the morning earlier this year when he was scheduled to go to trial.
In doing so, D’Souza admitted to contributing $10,000 to Long’s campaign, making half of the donation in his name, and the other half in that of his wife, Dixie.
Months later, D’Souza urged his assistant and a “woman with whom he was romantically involved” to act as straw donors to support the Long campaign, prosecutors said in a written statement. Court papers revealed this lover to be Denise Odie Joseph, a married right-wing blogger. The New York Daily News reported that her husband Louis Joseph also donated.
Joseph and the secretary made $20,000 donations to the Long campaign, which D’Souza reimbursed.
D’Souza reportedly said he is estranged from his wife. However, in a blistering letter to the sentencing judge’s chambers, Dixie D’Souza said her “former husband” filed for divorce before he committed his crimes.
“I know Dinesh better than anyone and can attest to his flawed character and lack of truthfulness,” she wrote U.S. District Judge Richard Berman.
In a 5-page letter, Dixie acts as prosecutor, rebutting the statements of D’Souza’s lawyer, Benjamin Branfman, who called her ex-husband a “good man” and a “genuine scholar.”
Branfman said that D’Souza “acted bereft of any corrupt purpose or design, other than blind and misguided loyalty.”
“That simply is not true,” D’Souza’s ex-wife countered. “Dinesh served on the Wendy Long finance committee and obviously knew the contribution guidelines and political finance campaign laws.”
Dixie added that her ex-husband said he donated to the Long campaign to “pay her back” for introducing him to a “big” donor who helped bankroll his anti-Obama polemic.
Branfman insists that his client accepts responsibility for his actions.
“In this case, there is absolutely nothing wrong or inconsistent with Mr. D’Souza’s maintaining that he is guilty of the crime he committed but also pointing out how much more seriously he is being treated than anybody else who has ever committed the same crime with the same facts, with no evidence whatsoever of any element of corruption,” he said.
His ex-wife responded that “there are two very different Dinish D’Souzas,” his private and public personas.
“Which is the real Dinesh D’Souza, the contrite one he states to the court or the irreverent, martyred one he portrays on the ‘big screen’ to the rest of America?”
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement that D’Souza tried to undermine “the integrity of the campaign finance process.”
“Like many others before him, of all political stripes, he has had to answer for this crime – here with a felony conviction,” he said.
He noted that Judge Berman remarked during today’s sentencing hearing that D’Souza’s claims of selective prosecution were ‘all hat, no cattle.'”
At the time of D’Souza’s plea, Berman said advised him that he could face up to two years in prison – in fact, federal sentencing guidelines call for 10 to 16 months, but the decision is nevertheless left to the judge’s discretion.
In sentencing D’Souza to probation, Judge Berman mandated the author and filmmaker spend eight months in a community confinement center, perform a mandatory eight-hour day of community service every week of his five-year term of probation, attend weekly counseling sessions, and pay a $100 special assessment on top of his $30,000 fine.
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