On Monday U.S. District Judge Thomas Whelan set the trial date for 50th District Congressman Duncan Hunter and his wife at September 10, 2019.
The couple was indicted in August with 60 counts of spending more than $250,000 of Hunter’s campaign funds on personal items such as video games, dental work, golf outings and trips abroad to Italy and Hawaii. The indictment covers actions from 2009-2016. Hunter and his wife are also charged with wire fraud and falsification of records.
The indictment and resulting controversy did make the 50th District competitive for the first time in many years, although not so much that Hunter’s challenger Ammar Campa-Najjar actually won. The final tally was 54% for Hunter and 46% for Campa-Najjar.
The Hunter family, father and son, have held this Congressional seat for about four decades. Hunter, a 41-year-old former Marine who fought in Iraq, was first elected ten years ago.
The trial next year is expected to last about three weeks, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Allen. The lead attorney for Hunter is Gregory Vega, who at Monday’s hearing said he had received “extensive discovery” from the prosecution and that he expected to be ready for a motions hearing next July.
Hunter claims the prosecution is politically inspired and an instance of selective prosecution, since, he said, such accusations are usually handled by the Federal Election Commission. He also says that his wife handled his finances when he was a Marine and continued to do so once he was elected to federal office.
The 50th District includes East San Diego County, Fallbrook, San Marcos, Escondido and Valley Center, as well as a small part of Temecula.