Prolific conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza pleaded guilty earlier this week to one of two federal charges that his donations to failed 2012 U.S. Senate candidate Wendy Long exceeded campaign-finance limits.
In an appearance in federal court in Manhattan on Tuesday, D’Souza admitted that he reimbursed two people described as close associates after they each contributed $10,000 to Long’s campaign. (One of them was his girlfriend.)
“I did reimburse them,” D’Souza told U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman, according to The Christian Science Monitor. “I knew that causing a campaign contribution to be made in the name of another was wrong and something the law forbids. I deeply regret my conduct.”
D’Souza, 53, now faces prison time as a result of his guilty plea. The plea prohibits him from objecting to any sentence that isn’t longer than 16 months.
Long, a New York Republican, lost the 2012 Senate election in the deep-blue state by a landslide margin of 44 percent. She only raised about $785,000 and never presented a remotely serious challenge to her Democratic opponent, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
D’Souza and Long have been friends for decades since they were both students at Dartmouth College in the 1980s. Long is not implicated in the indictment. However, prosecutors had reportedly indicated their intention to subpoena her as a witness at trial if necessary.
Why did D’Souza, a one-time Reagan White House policy adviser, choose to cop a guilty plea instead of forcing prosecutors to prove the case against him?
He could be just throwing himself at the mercy of the court. Taken at face value, a statement made this week by D’Souza’s attorney, Benjamin Brafman, suggests this possibility.
Brafman, a high-profile criminal defense attorney, said he hopes the sentencing judge “will recognize Mr. D’Souza to be a fundamentally honorable man who should not be imprisoned for what was an isolated instance of wrongdoing in an otherwise productive life,” according to the Monitor.
D’Souza’s own highly remorseful statements in the court this week are further evidence that a simple mercy strategy is at work.
At the same time, more complex legal issues are afoot.
D’Souza faced a dilemma that criminal defendants routinely face: Prosecutors said they would agree to drop the more serious of two charges if he pleaded guilty to the lesser one.
The more serious charge against D’Souza was causing a candidate to file a false report with the Federal Election Commission. It carries a prison term of up to five years. The lesser charge of exceeding campaign finance limits is also a felony but it carries a maximum two-year prison term and prosecutors agreed to ask the judge for a sentence between 10 and 16 months.
Additionally, the presiding judge ruled that D’Souza would not be allowed to present any evidence at trial that he is the victim of selective prosecution.
As a result, as D’Souza explained in an interview with Megyn Kelly of Fox News on Tuesday night, he would have been “going into a trial with in a sense, no defense.”
Defendant D’Souza expounded on this problem after Kelly noted that then-Sen. Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign was forced to pay nearly $400,000 in 2013 for its failure to divulge millions of dollars in campaign contributions and failing to meet deadlines for giving back over-the-limit contributions.
“You know, when I look around the country, it’s remarkable to see the cases that do and don’t get pressed,” D’Souza said. “So for example, look at Harry Reid. There seems to be multiple campaign finance things with him. The last I read, he used money from his campaign finance to pay for his daughter’s wedding. Then you look at numerous other cases and it seems that the Obama administration does not choose to push.”
He described his decision to exceed campaign contribution limits as “wrong and stupid” but called for “fair treatment” in the prosecution of campaign contribution cases.
Numerous Republicans, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, have suggested that the charges against D’Souza are politically motivated.
Obama appointee Preet Bharara, a publicity-savvy New York Southern District U.S. Attorney, brought the charges against D’Souza. Bharara is speculated to be a top prospect for an attorney general job is there is a Hillary Clinton administration.
Bharara’s office declined to tell The Daily Caller whether anyone else has been charged or is expected to be charged as a result of the “routine review by the FBI” of the 2012 New York Senate race, which snagged D’Souza.
“I will have to check on that,” said Bharara’s office spokeswoman, Jerika Richardson, before declining to comment. (RELATED: Dinesh D’Souza tells TheDC: ‘I’m going to proceed with my work…the film will be unimpeded’)
In January, federal agents arrested the outspoken conservative political commentator in New York City based on claims that he covertly donated $20,000 to Long’s campaign. (RELATED: Obama administration indicts conservative filmmaker critical of Obama)
D’Souza’s 2012 documentary, “2016: Obama’s America,” strongly criticizes the policies of the Obama administration and suggests that anti-colonial rage influences the president’s decisions. In the election-year box-office hit, D’Souza also travels to Africa to interview Obama’s half brother, George Obama (who mildly reproaches his more successful half-sibling).
A follow-up documentary, “America,” which digs deeper into the ideological basis that holds the modern progressive movement together, has been complete for awhile now and set for targeted release in June, with wider distribution expected later in this summer.
D’Souza’s 2012 documentary is currently the second-most-popular political documentary in American history behind “Farenheit 9/11,” a 2004 movie by leftist documentarian Michael Moore.
D’Souza’s sentencing hearing is set for Sept. 23.