NEW YORK—In a court appearance Tuesday, Dinesh D’Souza’s defense suggested that D’Souza was not likely to take a plea for criminal charges he faces for violating campaign finance laws. Prosecutors had outlined a plea deal in a letter to D’Souza last week.
“My guess is we’ll see you at the trial,” Benjamin Brafman, the lawyer representing D’Souza, told Judge Richard Berman of the Southern District Court of New York.
D’Souza would face six to 12 months in prison under the plea, and 10 to 16 months if he decides to go to trial and is found guilty. Because this is a criminal case, D’Souza would be tried before a jury. He was charged with funneling $20,000 in donations to a U.S. Senate candidate in New York in 2012, using as straw donors his mistress and his personal assistant at The King’s College, where D’Souza was president until revelations about his mistress. The defense doesn’t dispute the facts of the case, but says D’Souza had no criminal intent, a line Brafman repeated on Tuesday.
“There is not a scintilla of evidence that this was a corrupt endeavor by Mr. D’Souza,” his attorney said. Brafman added that he was considering filing a selective prosecution motion, presumably on the basis that he believes the U.S. Attorney’s office went after D’Souza because of his conservative politics. The judge could dismiss the indictment if the selective prosecution motion succeeded.
Barring a plea deal, the trial is set for May 19. The judge set a deadline of April 17 for pretrial motions, presumably also the deadline for D’Souza to accept a plea.
Brafman also asked the judge to return his client’s passport to him because D’Souza has speaking engagements planned in Mexico and Australia before the trial. D’Souza had to surrender his passport when he was indicted.
“Mr. D’Souza has been aware of this case for many months,” said Brafman. “If he had any intention of fleeing he had ample opportunity.”
The prosecution said D’Souza was a flight risk because he has family in India. D’Souza has kept up speaking engagements since the indictment, but he has avoided discussing the case. D’Souza remained silent during his appearance Tuesday.