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Margaret Hunter to plead out in case against congressman husband

Jeff McDonald, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Political News

SAN DIEGO -- Margaret Hunter, the wife of longtime Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who was co-indicted with her husband last summer, has agreed to change her plea of not guilty and is scheduled to appear in federal court Thursday.

The announcement was posted on the U.S. District Court docket Wednesday without any supplemental documentation.

"Notice of hearing as to defendant Margaret E. Hunter," the docket entry states. "Change of Plea hearing set for 6/13/2019."

Both Hunter and wife were indicted in August on 60 criminal counts related to what prosecutors allege was a yearslong misuse of campaign donations to the congressman's reelection fund. Each of the defendants pleaded not guilty to all charges last year.

Attorneys for Margaret Hunter, 44, did not immediately return calls seeking comment about the change-of-plea hearing Thursday.

Gregory Vega, the former U.S. attorney who is defending Rep. Hunter, who represents part of East San Diego County, said the development has no immediate bearing on his client's case.

 

"We are aware of Mrs. Hunter scheduling a hearing to change her plea," Vega said Wednesday. "At this time, that does not change anything regarding Congressman Hunter. There are still significant motions that need to be litigated, specifically the speech or debate clause of the U.S. Constitution."

Vega declined to comment on whether the change of plea might reflect a decision by Margaret Hunter to cooperate with prosecutors and testify against her husband.

While the couple appeared jointly at initial court appearances immediately after the August indictment, they arrived separately to more recent proceedings, sat in separate parts of the courtroom and avoided speaking or even eye contact.

The indictment, which followed two-plus years of reporting by The San Diego Union-Tribune, accused Hunter and his wife of using at least $250,000 in campaign donations for personal expenses, including groceries, private-school tuition for the couple's children, a trip to Italy and oral surgery.

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