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Weeks before sentencing, former Rep. Duncan Hunter asks court to throw out indictment

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Congressman Duncan Hunter arrives to U.S. District Court Monday, Nov. 25, 2019 with his attorney Paul Pfingst.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Former Rep. Duncan Hunter filed court papers Tuesday asking a second time for a judge to throw out the indictment against him — or recuse prosecutors from the case in light of new evidence that Hunter says indicates a conflict of interest.

Defense attorney Paul Pfingst argued that two prosecutors who attended a campaign fundraiser for Hillary Clinton in 2015 — less than a year before they began investigating Hunter -- created “the appearance of a loss of impartiality” because Hunter was an early supporter of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Hunter pleaded guilty in December to one count of conspiracy to illegally convert campaign money to personal use. He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine but is expected to receive less time in custody when he is sentenced on March 17.

The motion filed Tuesday does not seek to change Hunter’s plea, nor is it a legal challenge that would invalidate his plea deal, Pfingst said.

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Instead, the defense attorney said Hunter is reviving a motion the court rejected in July because Hunter did not know at the time that his public records request had not returned some relevant emails.

The new emails, brought to light through a lawsuit by a conservative government accountability group, Judicial Watch, suggested prosecutors had been surprised to be invited to the Clinton campaign event and had accepted the invitation, the motion said.

Pfingst said the emails raise concerns about whether the government’s explanations that prosecutors were at the event in an official capacity were accurate and forthright, and why justice officials had not initially disclosed all the documents.

Kelly Thornton, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego, declined to comment on Hunter’s motion.


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