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Just weeks before disgraced former Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., is slated to report to prison for stealing campaign funds, his attorneys are petitioning to have his surrender date moved to January 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
”In light of the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, this is not a time to be adding to the prison population unnecessarily,” attorney Devin Burstein said in an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The request to change Hunter’s surrender date from May 29 to Jan. 4 was filed in a joint motion between his attorneys and the prosecution and both sides are awaiting the judge’s decision.
If granted, Hunter promised to not ask for any other changes to his term or that his home confinement be counted toward the 11-month prison sentence.
The former congressman and Marine veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and his wife, Margaret, were accused in a 60-count indictment of stealing more than $250,000 and misusing the campaign funds for lavish outings with friends, birthday parties for his daughter, and other things. The charges also accused the couple of trying to mask the spending on financial disclosure records, listing some personal expenses as contributions to Wounded Warriors.
Both Hunter and his wife pleaded guilty to a single count in separate plea agreements last year, and each had faced up to five years in prison. His wife’s sentencing hearing is on June 8.
Hunter resigned from his seat representing the rare red district in Southern California, and the seat is now up for grabs in a runoff race come November.
At his sentencing hearing in March, his lawyers asked for part of his sentence to be served in home confinement, citing his military and congressional service but the request was denied by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas J. Whelan because of the high value of misused funds over a long period of time.
Prisons across the country have faced an unprecedented crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic, and Attorney General William Barr instructed the Bureau of Prisons to lighten overcrowding in its facilities by allowing certain nonviolent inmates to serve out their sentences in home confinement.
Other convicted felons, such as former congressman from New York, Chris Collins, who was convicted of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, had his start date in prison delayed, with lawyers successfully pleading that the 69-year-old’s age makes him high-risk for contracting COVID-19.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.