Congressman Hunter Can Delay Campaign-Finance Trial

A protester dressed in a bunny suit outside federal court in San Diego Monday, in a reference to accusations that Rep. Duncan Hunter spent $600 in campaign funds on an airline ticket for his family’s pet rabbit. (Bianca Bruno/CNS)

SAN DIEGO (CN) – U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, the San Diego-area congressman facing charges of misusing campaign money, won his bid Monday to postpone his trial until after the midterm elections in November.

Federal authorities indicted Hunter on 60 charges in August, involving the suspected use of $250,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses. Margaret Hunter, his wife and campaign manager, also faces charges; both pleaded not guilty last month.

The Hunters appeared in court Monday morning before U.S. District Judge Thomas Whelan. Margaret Hunter’s attorney Thomas McNamara told Whelan his legal team needs two to three months to go through two terabytes of data provided by the government in the case.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Allen told Whelan “this is a very simple case when it comes down to it,” and that jurors will be tasked with deciding whether campaign money was spent on personal use.

Allen said more than 12,000 pages of FBI reports, including interviews with witnesses, were provided to the Hunters’ attorneys Sept. 10. She said the information was well organized and argued against postponing the scheduling of hearings on motions and a trial date.

Greg Vega, Duncan Hunter’s attorney, said, “When I was a United States Attorney it didn’t take 2 ½ years to investigate a simple embezzlement case.”

Whelan said he agreed the government and public have a right to a speedy trial in the case, he ultimately found the request for additional time to review the documents “is not unreasonable.”

But Whelan said two months “is plenty of time frankly” for the Hunters’ attorneys to parse through the documents provided by the government in its case against the couple.

A 12-foot inflatable hazmat suit dubbed “Clean-up Carl” was set up outside federal court in San Diego by the progressive nonprofit Mayday America ahead of a court hearing Monday for Rep. Duncan Hunter, who faces charges of misusing campaign funds. (Bianca Bruno/CNS)

Outside the courthouse, protesters chanted “shame” at Hunter as he and his attorneys left the building.

Several of the protesters were with the District 50 chapter of the progressive group Indivisible. Many of them held handmade signs and wore bunny-ear headbands in reference to Hunter’s suspected use of  campaign funds to buy a $600 airline ticket for his family’s pet rabbit, which was first reported by The San Diego Union-Tribune in its investigation of the congressman’s spending.

A 12-foot tall inflatable hazmat suit dubbed “Clean-up Carl” was also set up outside the courthouse by the progressive nonprofit Mayday America. The group toured congressional districts across California over the past week as part of its “Clean the House” tour.

Teddy Rube said the D.C.-based organization decided to show up at Hunter’s court hearing because he is the “most corrupt” of the six representatives from California Mayday protested over the past week.

“Money in politics is toxic and has created representatives like Duncan Hunter,” Rube said.

“He is not at all interested in respecting the dignity of his office and voters.”

The next court hearing in the case against the Hunters is scheduled for Dec. 3.

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