SAN DIEGO (AP) — California Rep. Duncan Hunter gave up his year-long fight against federal corruption charges and pleaded guilty Tuesday to misusing his campaign funds, paving the way for the six-term Republican to step down.
Hunter changed his not guilty plea at a federal hearing in San Diego on Tuesday in a dramatic reversal and faces five years in prison as part of a plea agreement.
He left the courthouse to jeers from protesters yelling “Lock him up.” Hunter said outside court that he failed to properly monitor campaign funds.
For more than a year, Hunter had insisted that criminal charges against him and his wife were the result of a conspiracy of the “deep state” meant to drive him from office in the Democrat-dominated state.
Hunter, an early supporter of President Donald Trump, said in a TV interview that aired Monday that he is prepared to go to jail. He has not said exactly when he will resign.
The change in plea marks the second time this year a Republican congressman who was re-elected while indicted has later pleaded guilty to federal charges.
Hunter, 42, told San Diego TV station KUSI a trial would be tough on his three children.
His wife Margaret Hunter also was charged in the case and in June accepted a plea deal that called for her to testify against her husband. The couple could have faced decades in prison before the plea deals. His wife faces up to five years in prison.
Federal prosecutors said the couple spent more than $250,000 in campaign money for golf outings, family vacations to Italy and Hawaii, tequila shots and airline tickets for their pet rabbit.
Prosecutors also revealed Hunter spent some of the money on romantic relationships with lobbyists and congressional aides.
Hunter’s departure will mark the end of a political dynasty in Southern California’s most Republican district. He was elected in 2008 after his father represented the district for 28 years.
In October, former four-term Republican Rep. Chris Collins of New York pleaded guilty in an insider trading case, a day after he resigned from Congress. He faces a maximum sentence of about four years in prison.