East County residents react to Margaret Hunter’s plea

Photo by Rick Eaton. Margaret Hunter stands outside the U.S. District Court in downtown San Diego on Thursday, June 13, 2019. Hunter pleaded guilty to one charge listed in the indictment against her as part of a plea agreement.

Republican Congressman Duncan D. Hunter’s 50th district constituents joined a crowded courtroom to watch Margaret E. Hunter’s change of plea, from not guilty to guilty on Thursday, June 13, 2019, at the Edward J. Schwartz Federal Courthouse in downtown San Diego.

In the plea agreement, defendant Margaret E. Hunter plead guilty to count one of the indictment that charged her and co-defendant Duncan D. Hunter, to knowingly and willfully using funds from the Duncan D. Hunter for Congress Campaign Committee for personal expenses, in violation of title 18, United States Code, section 371.

She gave up all rights to appeal and to collaterally attack every aspect of the conviction and sentencing.

The misuse of funds noted in her plea agreement, count one, are $25,000, spent in more than one calendar year. 

The plea agreement states that the defendant has committed each element of the crime and admits there is a factual basis for this guilty plea.

Reactions to her plea agreement varied.

“I think she’s doing what’s right,” said Alpine resident and business owner David Rykowski. “But it depends on what she does at the trial in September and how much truthful information she has. Hope she is doing it for the city of Alpine.”

Rykowski knows how his vote will be cast in 2020 if Rep. Hunter is on the ballot.

“I do not think he will get re-elected. I would not vote for him.”

Kendra Coulombe, a constituent from Ramona stated she thought Rep. Hunter served his district well, but no one should be above the law.

“She told the truth and the truth sets you free,” said Coulombe. “I listened to Radio 600 AM and 760 AM and people were calling in and justifying their support of them (the Hunter family). They will have their day in court and justice will be served.”

Rep. Hunter’s military service is respected by other constituents.

“I would vote for him again,” said republican Patti Gonzales. “My husband is a veteran, [Duncan D. Hunter is] a veteran – that means something to us,”

Alpine resident John Kellogg said he wants to wait and see the outcome in September and how it will play out in Congress.

“I’ll have to wait and see how it plays out and effects him in his position,” said Kellogg.

Alpine resident Nancy Smith, a retired postal worker, reacted to how the husband-wife dynamics of the couple played out.

“I feel like they should be backing each other up,” she said, but offered a perspective on the activities after the fall indictment. “As soon as he got on the news, he blamed her, threw her under the bus.”

California’s 50th congressional district encompasses Alpine, central and northeastern parts of the County of San Diego and a small area in Riverside County.

Current competitors for the seat are Ammar Campa-Najjar (D), Matt Rahn (R) and Larry Wilski (R). The primary will be held March 3, 2020.

Duncan D. Hunter’s trial is set for Sep. 10, 2019.