SAN DIEGO — Margaret Hunter, the wife of longtime Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who was co-indicted with her husband last summer, has agreed to change her plea of not guilty and is scheduled to appear in federal court Thursday.

The announcement was posted on the U.S. District Court docket Wednesday without any supplemental documentation.

“Notice of hearing as to defendant Margaret E. Hunter,” the docket entry states. “Change of Plea hearing set for 6/13/2019.”

Both Hunter and wife were indicted in August on 60 criminal counts related to what prosecutors allege was a yearslong misuse of campaign donations to the congressman’s reelection fund. Each of the defendants pleaded not guilty to all charges last year.

Attorneys for Margaret Hunter, 44, did not immediately return calls seeking comment about the change-of-plea hearing Thursday.

Gregory Vega, the former U.S. attorney who is defending Rep. Hunter, who represents part of East San Diego County, said the development has no immediate bearing on his client’s case.

“We are aware of Mrs. Hunter scheduling a hearing to change her plea,” Vega said Wednesday. “At this time, that does not change anything regarding Congressman Hunter. There are still significant motions that need to be litigated, specifically the speech or debate clause of the U.S. Constitution.”

Vega declined to comment on whether the change of plea might reflect a decision by Margaret Hunter to cooperate with prosecutors and testify against her husband.

While the couple appeared jointly at initial court appearances immediately after the August indictment, they arrived separately to more recent proceedings, sat in separate parts of the courtroom and avoided speaking or even eye contact.

The indictment, which followed two-plus years of reporting by The San Diego Union-Tribune, accused Hunter and his wife of using at least $250,000 in campaign donations for personal expenses, including groceries, private-school tuition for the couple’s children, a trip to Italy and oral surgery.

The Alpine congressman, 42, also billed his campaign $600 to fly his family’s pet rabbit across the country, records show.

Prior to the indictment, Hunter said the questionable spending was all made by mistake. For instance, he claimed $1,300 of video game expenses were charged to his congressional campaign in part because his personal and congressional cards were both blue.

Later, he made a series of repayments to the campaign totaling $60,000 and declared the case closed.

But according to prosecutors, the Hunters systematically used political donations to pay routine bills and to support their lifestyle, including luxury hotel stays, golf outings, meals at expensive restaurants and more.

“Throughout the relevant period, the Hunters spent substantially more than they earned,” the indictment said. “They overdrew their bank account more than 1,100 times in a seven-year period, resulting in approximately $37,761 in ‘overdraft’ and ‘insufficient funds’ bank fees.”

Margaret Hunter, who was paid $3,000 a month to serve as campaign treasurer, is due to appear at 10 a.m. Thursday before Judge Thomas J. Whelan.

In the initial days following the indictment, Rep. Hunter was criticized for blaming his wife for the alleged misspending, noting that she was in charge of the finances.

He also called media reports about his questionable spending “fake news” and declared that he was a target of a “Deep State” conspiracy and overzealous federal prosecutors dubious of his early support for the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump.

Even though he faced criminal charges filed in August, Hunter was re-elected in November. But Republican Party leaders stripped him of his committee seats, limiting his authority within the U.S. House of Representatives.

Rep. Hunter is not required to attend the hearing. He signed a court notice Tuesday indicating that he would appear at his next scheduled proceeding on July 1. The trial has been scheduled in September.


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