Margaret Hunter tearfully told a judge Monday she took responsibility for her role in Duncan Hunter’s Congressional campaign fraud. She was then sentenced to eight months home confinement.
Her statements came before U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Whelan after both the prosecutor and her attorney spoke in favor of the same sentence without any jail time.
Whelan asked Hunter, 45, the estranged wife of Duncan Hunter, if she wanted to say anything. She hesitated, then approached a podium. She took off her mask and briefly addressed Whelan before she began to weep.
She said she took responsibility for her role as her husband’s campaign manager and she was sorry for her actions of using campaign funds for personal expenses for her family.
Her eight months home detention on terms of three years probation begins now at her La Mesa residence. She takes care of two of her children. Duncan Hunter, 43, was sentenced March 17 to 11 months in prison, and he will surrender on Jan. 4, 2021, to begin his term.
Both Hunters pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal campaign funds and the conviction caused Duncan Hunter to resign his 50th District Congressional seat in January.
Duncan Hunter had asked Whelan not to impose any jail term for his estranged wife as she was taking care of two of their children.
No restitution was ordered, but Duncan Hunter repaid approximately $60,000 to his campaign in 2017. Prosecutors said the couple used $250,000 of campaign funds which came from political donors.
Whelan noted he could have imposed a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison for both of them.
Whelan said the exceptions for Margaret Hunter’s home confinement are medical appointments, religious services, and employment if she gets a job.
In court documents, the U.S. Attorney’s office has noted “the parallels” between the Hunters case and that of ex-Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., who got 30 months in prison for converting $750,000 in campaign funds for personal use.
Jackson’s wife, Sandra Jackson, was sentenced to 12 months in prison in 2013 for the same offense.
Duncan D. Hunter lives in Alpine with his father, former Congressman Duncan Hunter, who retired from the same seat in 2009, after his son won the election.
“Today, the rule of law prevailed,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Conover to reporters afterwards. “Today we are reminded that no one is above the law. The sentence was appropriate. Today, justice was served.”
Conover said Margaret Hunter’s cooperation with prosecutors and willingness to testify against her husband led to his pleading guilty.
“Without her cooperation, we may have had to go to trial,” said Conover. “Ms. Hunter’s cooperation was extraordinary.”
“She had to withstand being thrown under the bus by her husband,” said Conover, referring to Duncan Hunter’s first statements blaming his wife for the entire crime.
“Duncan Hunter was the driving force. He was the one who gave her access,” said Allen.
“Ms. Hunter built a cocoon around her children so they would suffer as little collateral damage as possible from the sins of their parents,” wrote her attorneys in court documents.
Neither Duncan or Margaret Hunter had any prior criminal record.