U.S. District Judge Thomas J. Whelan ruled on Monday that Rep. Duncan Hunter’s (R-CA) recently exposed affairs could be used as evidence in his campaign finance fraud case.
In a bombshell filing, federal prosecutors last week accused Hunter of using campaign donations to engage in a series of extramarital affairs. The GOP congressman allegedly dipped into his campaign funds to take at least five women, all of whom were either lobbyists or congressional staffers, out on lavish dinners and vacations.
Ruling from the bench, Whelan told prosecutors they could present the affairs as evidence against Hunter, who was indicted with his wife Margaret for misusing $250,000 in campaign funds, the San Diego Tribune reported.
When he was first hit with the indictment last summer, Hunter went on Fox News to try to pin the blame on his wife, who “handled my finances.” She initially pleaded not guilty to the charges, but just a couple weeks before prosecutors revealed the alleged affairs publicly, Hunter’s wife reversed and entered into a plea deal with the feds.
Hunter’s lawyers last week filed to prevent the affairs from being presented as evidence in his trial, accusing the prosecution of trying to “distract the jury” with “salacious and prejudicial information” that wasn’t relevant to the case. Besides, the lawyers argued, the nature of Hunter’s relationships with the women happens all the time in politics.
“In its quest to highlight the intimate nature of these relationships, the Government fails to meaningfully consider the fact that, just as with Mr. Hunter’s platonic relationships, his friendships often blur the line between personal and professional, which is a widespread occurrence in modern politics,” Hunter’s team said in the court filing.
Hunter’s lawyers went on to claim that because the women were all involved in politics, the lawmaker was justified in spending campaign money on at least some of his meetings with them since the meetings “often served an overtly political purpose.”
Read the court filing from Hunter’s lawyers below: