FILE - In this July 1, 2019, file photo, U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., center, leaves federal court after a hearing in San Diego. A judge is expected to rule on a bid by Hunter to move his trial on charges that he looted campaign funds for personal use and even to dismiss the charges outright. U.S. District Judge Thomas Whelan in San Diego decided a flurry of pretrial motions last week but deferred some decisions until Monday, July 8 to consider filings that arrived too late for him to read. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy, File)

Judge will rule on key pretrial motions for congressman

July 07, 2019 - 9:08 pm

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A judge on Monday is expected to rule on a bid by U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter to move his trial on charges that he looted campaign funds for personal use and even to dismiss charges.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Whelan decided a flurry of pretrial motions last week but deferred some decisions until Monday to fully consider late filings. The California Republican's trial begins in September.

Hunter, 42, is seeking a change of venue from San Diego to the Eastern District of California, which includes counties that Donald Trump carried in the 2016 presidential elections in a state that voted overwhelmingly for Clinton.

"There is simply no way the jury pool in San Diego County can be untainted," Hunter's attorneys say in a court filing. "Potential jurors are just a keystroke away from hundreds of thousands of press articles and blog postings online, most if not all of a very negative nature."

Hunter's team wants charges dismissed, arguing that the presence of two prosecutors tied to the case at a Hillary Clinton fundraiser in August 2015 compromised their impartiality. The government says the prosecutors attended in an official capacity to assist law enforcement, which Hunter's team disputes.

Hunter and his wife were indicted in August on charges they used more than $250,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses ranging from groceries to golf trips and family vacations, and then lied about it in federal filings. Margaret Hunter pleaded guilty last month to one corruption count and agreed to testify against her husband.

Last week, the judge ruled that jurors can hear evidence involving Hunter's alleged extramarital affairs. Prosecutors have revealed salacious details about the married congressman's lifestyle, saying he used campaign money to illegally finance a string of romantic relationships with lobbyists and congressional aides.

In an interview with Fox News last year, Hunter said his campaign made mistakes, that he gave his wife power of attorney when he deployed as a Marine to Iraq in 2003, and that she handled his finances during his last five terms in office.

Hunter was re-elected in his strongly Republican congressional district in San Diego County last year despite the indictment. The Hunter name represents something of a political dynasty in the area — his father captured the seat in 1980 and held it until his son was elected in 2008.