Decision 2020

Ex-Rep. Duncan Hunter Renews Effort to Disqualify Prosecutors

Hunter’s lawyers claim new evidence reveals political bias at U.S. Attorney’s office.

CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

Former Congressman Duncan D. Hunter’s attorneys have again asked a federal judge to dismiss the charges against their client or remove local prosecutors from the case. 

The request for dismissal or recusal was filed one week before Hunter’s scheduled sentencing for campaign finance violations. The ex-congressman admitted in December 2019 that he misspent more than $150,000 in campaign contributions for personal expenses and services.

Hunter’s attorneys now argue that recently disclosed emails provide new evidence of bias against Hunter by then-First Assistant U.S. Attorney Alana Robinson and prosecutor Emily Allen.

Robinson and Allen attended an August 2015 fundraiser in La Jolla for former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

NBC 7's Danny Freeman breaks down the players in the race for the 50th Congressional District.

In a July 2019 legal motion, Hunter’s attorneys argued that those appearances by the prosecutors revealed a bias on their part against Hunter, a conservative Republican who was the first congressman to endorse presidential candidate Trump.

But Justice Department attorneys said the local prosecutors attended the Clinton fundraiser “in their official capacity assisting law enforcement,” and Federal District Judge Thomas Whelan rejected Hunter’s first motion for dismissal or removal of the local prosecutors from the case in July 2019.

Hunter’s attorneys Tuesday renewed their motion to dismiss, based on  two newly-released emails written by those local prosecutors. The emails purportedly confirm that the prosecutors did not have an “official business” reason to attend the Clinton fundraiser. The emails were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act Request filed by Judicial Watch, a conservative political foundation.

One of the partially-redacted emails reads, in part, “Thanks so much for the invitation to this morning’s (fundraiser.) I was blown away by your incredible hospitality and can’t thank you enough for allowing us to crash that fabulous party.” The second email reads in part: “ totally downplayed that amazing invitation! I had no idea it would be so spectacular.”

In the renewed motion for dismissal or recusal, Hunter’s attorney, Paul Pfingst, argues that the newly-discovered emails are “evidence of bias” by prosecutors. “At a minimum,” Pfingst argues, “the lack of impartiality by (local federal prosecutors)...created the appearance of impropriety that warrants recusal.”

The US Attorney’s Office is expected to file a response to that defense motion later this week, and Judge Whelan is expected to rule on the dismissal request at the start of Hunter’s March 17 sentencing hearing.

Hunter's resignation cleared the way for a four-way race to fill his seat in the 50th District.

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