Ex-California lawmaker seeks prison term delay due to virus
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Former California Rep. Duncan Hunter wants to push back the start of his prison term for stealing campaign funds until next year because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
Hunter’s lawyers and prosecutors filed a joint motion in federal court on Tuesday and were awaiting a ruling from a judge on their request to change the surrender date from May 29 to Jan. 4.
If granted, Hunter promised to not ask for any other changes to his term or that his home confinement be counted toward the 11-month prison stint.
”In light of the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, this is not a time to be adding to the prison population unnecessarily,” attorney Devin Burstein said in an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Hunter was sentenced in March to 11 months in prison after pleading guilty to stealing campaign funds and spending the money on everything from outings with friends to his daughter’s birthday party. The ex-Marine resigned from Congress in January after representing one of Southern California’s last solidly Republican districts. A Democrat and Republican are headed to a November runoff for his seat.
Last month, another convicted former congressman from New York, Chris Collins, had his prison start date delayed until June after his lawyers told the court the 69-year-old is in a high risk category if he contracts the coronavirus. Collins, a former Republican representative sentenced to 26 months for securities fraud, is now set to surrender June 23.
At Hunter’s sentencing hearing, his lawyers had asked for most or part of his sentence yo be served in home confinement, citing his military service in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his nearly six terms in Congress. But U.S. District Court Judge Thomas J. Whelan cited the amount of money Hunter misspent and the number of years he carried out the pilfering in rejecting the request.
Hunter and his wife Margaret, who was his campaign manager, were accused in a 60-count indictment of stealing more than $250,000 in campaign funds and trying to hide it on financial disclosure records, listing some personal expenses as contributions to Wounded Warriors.
Each pleaded guilty to a single count in separate plea agreements last year, and each had faced up to five years in prison. His wife’s sentencing hearing is June 8.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The vast majority of people recover.