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Rep. Hunter pleads guilty to misusing campaign funds

By Devan Cole and Paul Vercammen | CNN

Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter pleaded guilty on Tuesday to federal corruption charges stemming from his misuse of more than $200,000 in campaign funds.

Hunter, who represents the northeastern San Diego area, had previously denied dipping into campaign funds to pay for a slew of personal expenses, including video games, an Italian vacation, groceries and bedding.

Hunter pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to misuse campaign funds and now awaits sentencing. He faces up to five years in jail.

“I made mistakes and that’s what today was all about,” Hunter told reporters after the brief hearing.

Hecklers could be heard in the background shouting at Hunter as he spoke.

The congressman was joined in court by his father, former California GOP Rep. Duncan L. Hunter, who served for nearly three decades.

CNN reported on Monday that Hunter had planned to change his plea, with the congressman saying “it’s important that people know that I did make mistakes” and reasoning that he doesn’t want to go to trial because of his three children.

Hunter and his wife, Margaret, were indicted in August 2018 for using funds to pay for the personal expenses, leading him to step down from his congressional committee assignments though he later went on to win reelection.

Federal prosecutors had charged that Hunter had fraudulently spent more than $200,000 on expenses that included a $14,000 Italian vacation and thousands of dollars on routine items like groceries, bedding and other household items.

The new plea comes several months after Margaret Hunter pleaded guilty in June to conspiring with her husband to “knowingly and willingly” convert campaign funds for personal use and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

Hunter had initially blamed his wife for the campaign fund abuses, saying she was the one handling his finances. “She was also the campaign manager, so whatever she did that’ll be looked at too, I’m sure,” he said on Fox News in August 2018.

But in response to the judge at the time, Margaret Hunter acknowledged that Duncan Hunter had attempted to set up a one-day tour of a naval base in Italy to justify their Italian vacation — one of the examples prosecutors have cited as evidence that the congressman used his position of power for personal gain.

This story is breaking and will be updated.

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