A judge on Tuesday delayed the campaign corruption trial of Congressman Duncan D. Hunter until Jan. 14, 2020 because an appeals court is reviewing the judge’s refusal to drop some of the charges.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has given deadlines for Hunter(R-Alpine), 42, and the U.S. Attorney’s office to supply arguments they will consider that were four days away from the original Sept. 10 trial date.
Subsequently both Hunter and the U.S. Attorney’s office requested a new trial date while keeping in mind it will last a full month.
A number of dates were considered and when someone mentioned the word “preferences,” U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Whelan said, “I would prefer it last year if we’re going by preferences.”
Attorneys suggested an Oct. 29 trial date, but Whelan told them he was not available in the last two weeks of November. A Dec. 3 trial date was suggested, but attorneys mentioned the difficulty of keeping a jury during the last two weeks of the Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays.
Whelan denied a motion by Hunter’s lawyers to dismiss some of the charges on July 9, and he filed an appeal July 19 with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is based in San Francisco.
His attorney, Devin Burnstein, said a three-judge panel will decide the issue if Whelan made a legal error in refusing to dismiss some of the charges.
Burnstein had a different view of which court had jurisdiction of the case Tuesday, saying it was the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Whelan and Assistant U.S. Attorney Phil Halpern said they believed Whelan still had jurisdiction.
Hunter was present but he said nothing. He has waived his right to a speedy trial.
Meanwhile, the sentencing date of Margaret Hunter, 44, of Alpine, was moved from Sept. 16 to Dec. 2 by Whelan at the joint request of her attorneys and prosecutors.
Margaret Hunter pleaded guilty June 13 to conspiracy to use funds from her husband’s congressional campaign for which she was the manager.
Margaret Hunter will likely testify against her husband in his trial. She faces up to five years in federal prison when she is sentenced. Dozens of other charges will be dismissed at sentencing.
Duncan Hunter has pleaded not guilty to 43 counts of wire fraud, 13 counts of falsifying records from campaign finances, three counts of prohibited use of campaign finances and conspiracy.
The charges come from personal use of campaign credit cards to pay for restaurants, play tickets, a vacation to Italy, dental work, groceries in El Cajon and Alpine and miscellaneous other items.
After the Monday hearing, Hunter’s father, who is also named Duncan Hunter, said his son “is continuing to do his job… working for the people.”
“I think he wants to get this thing to trial,” said his father, who previously served as Congressman in the same district. “Let’s get to trial and win this.”
Duncan and Margaret Hunter are free on $15,000 and $10,000 bond respectively.