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Former Rep. Duncan Hunter to serve sentence at West Texas prison camp

Duncan Hunter in a suit and tie walks to court with his legal team
Former Rep. Duncan Hunter walks into federal court in San Diego on March 17 for his sentencing.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Former Rep. Duncan Hunter will serve his 11-month sentence for conspiring to misuse campaign funds at a West Texas prison camp, his attorney said Friday.

Hunter is due to report to Federal Correctional Institution La Tuna on Jan. 4. The prison is in the El Paso suburb of Anthony, on the Texas-New Mexico state line. He will serve in its adjacent minimum-security satellite camp, according to CQ Roll Call.

Hunter’s attorney, Devin Burstein, on Friday confirmed the report that Hunter had been assigned to the facility.

Hunter fought a 60-count indictment for more than a year before pleading guilty to a conspiracy charge in December.

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His wife, Margaret Hunter, pleaded guilty in June 2019 of conspiring with her husband to misuse more than $250,000 in campaign money on personal expenses such as travel, groceries, fast food and private school tuition.

Alan Ellis, a defense attorney who writes the Federal Prison Guidebook, told Roll Call he suspects Hunter is being sent to a facility 10 hours away to get him away from his sphere of influence — something Ellis said is common for high-profile prisoners.

FCI La Tuna also is where former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca is serving a three-year sentence for obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice and making false statements.

Hunter’s criminal charges in August 2018 came more than two years after the Federal Election Commission and the San Diego Union-Tribune questioned Hunter in April 2016 about expenditures his campaign had reported — a series of video-game purchases and a payment to his children’s private school.

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According to the indictment, the Hunters relied for years on campaign contributions to pay routine family expenses such as dental bills, home repairs and fast-food meals. They also used the money for exotic vacations, private school tuition, plane tickets for Margaret’s mother to and from Poland, and a flight for a pet rabbit.

Immediately after the indictment, Hunter said the charges were the result of a “deep state” conspiracy among “partisan Democrat prosecutors” and denied any wrongdoing. He continued denying the charges after his wife had pleaded guilty and agreed to work with prosecutors.

Then, in December, Hunter pleaded guilty in order to spare his children the spectacle of a trial, he said. Initially he was scheduled to begin serving his time in May, but that was pushed back because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hunter left Congress in January, and his seat in the 50th District, encompassing central and northeastern San Diego County and parts of Riverside County, has been vacant since. Former Republican Rep. Darrel Issa and Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar are in a tight race to replace him.

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Dyer writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.


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