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Rep. Hunter, wife appear before federal judge who will hear case

 U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, and his wife, who were indicted on charges they spent more than $250,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses, made their first appearance Sept. 4 before the federal judge in San Diego who will be handling the case.

Gregory Vega, the congressman’s attorney, told U.S. District Judge Thomas Whelan that it will be a few weeks before he’s able to determine which motions to file before trial and asked for another status conference on Sept. 24.

The judge denied Vega’s request that Hunter be allowed to skip that hearing. The congressman and his wife, Margaret, left through a back door after the brief hearing.

According to the 60-count indictment, Hunter and his wife took money from campaign coffers as if they were personal bank accounts and falsified Federal Election Commission campaign finance reports to cover their tracks.

The indictment details scores of instances beginning in 2009 and continuing through 2016 in which the Hunters are accused of illegally using campaign money to pay for such things as family vacations to Italy, Hawaii and Boise, Idaho, school tuition, dental work, theater tickets and smaller purchases, including fast food, tequila shots, golf outings and video games.

Hunter and his 43-year-old wife face charges of conspiracy, wire fraud and falsification of records.

At the couple’s arraignment, Vega charged that the case against the five-term congressman was politically motivated.

Hunter, a 41-year-old former Marine, has been critical of the Justice Department, calling it “corrupt and answerable to no one.”

Hunter is facing Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar in the November election in a district that has been a longtime Republican stronghold. Hunter’s father previously held the seat representing much of the East County, as well as Fallbrook, San Marcos, Valley Center and Escondido.

The congressman has said he hasn’t done anything wrong and is looking forward to clearing his name at trial.

No trial date has been set.

— City News Service