By Ken Stone
Lawyers defending resigned congressman Duncan D. Hunter lost another ruling Monday when a federal judge gave San Diego prosecutors permission to exceed a 25-page limit on their sentencing memorandum.
Hunter quit his 50th District seat after pleading guilty to one count in his campaign spending corruption case, but prosecutors* suggested in legal filings last week that he was still blaming his wife, Margaret, who earlier pleaded guilty.On Monday, Judge Thomas Whelan signed an order that said: “The parties may exceed the 25-page limit imposed by the United States District Court, Southern District of California’s Local Criminal Rule … (relating to Pre-Trial Criminal Motions) when filing their sentencing memoranda.”
The order applies both to the Alpine Republican, whose sentencing is March 17, and his wife, set to hear her penalty for her confession to one count of criminal conspiracy on April 13.
Last week, Duncan Hunter’s lawyers wrote: “How many pages does it take to tell the story of a couple whose personal finances were in disarray, so they improperly used campaign funds to cover their expenses?”
Hunter’s team basically argued that prosecutors were seeking to maximize press attention to the case — since the court already knew the “facts and circumstances.”
“The government’s proposed memorandum, like its 47-page indictment, is not designed to ensure justice but to maximize coverage,” said Hunter attorney Devin Burstein. “If court rules get in the way, no matter. The ends justify the means.”
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip Halpern, writing the court last Thursday, called a longer memo essential to set forth an “accurate and complete story” for Whelan to weigh.
“Equally important, it is absolutely vital with such charges that the public see firsthand that
the case is being handled transparently and with no undue motivation or pressure from any source,” Halpern wrote. “With full exposure to all relevant facts, the Court will be in the best position determine the defendant’s culpability and the propriety of punishment for both Hunter and his wife.”
Up until his Dec. 12 guilty plea, Hunter argued that he was the victim of a media and Department of Justice witch hunt.
Over the course of the 19-month-old case, Hunter’s legal team has lost more than a dozen motions, including one dealing with alleged prosecutorial bias because two U.S. attorneys attended a 2015 Hillary Clinton fundraiser in La Jolla.
Updated at 2 p.m. March 2, 2020
*Correction: An earlier version of this story said Hunter’s lawyers said Hunter was still blaming his wife for misspending campaign contributions.
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