NEW YORK—Conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza has filed a motion alleging the U.S. Attorney’s office is selectively prosecuting him based on his politics. D’Souza faces charges for making $20,000 in straw donations to a New York Senate campaign. If the judge in the case rejects his motion for dismissal, the May trial will be intensely personal, according to recently filed pre-trial documents. The trial is set for May 20. D’Souza faces up to 16 months in prison.
The prosecution plans to call as witnesses D’Souza’s former mistress, Denise Joseph; her former husband, Louis Joseph; D’Souza’s wife Dixie D’Souza; and Tyler Vawser, D’Souza’s former assistant at The King’s College, where he was once president.
The prosecution indicated it would raise the issue of D’Souza’s marital infidelity, which led to his resignation at King’s, in the trial. For one, D’Souza allegedly made a donation on his wife’s behalf without her consent, forging her signature, though that is not one of the straw donations at issue. D’Souza’s defense team, in response, said it would raise the infidelity of the prosecution’s witnesses. According to the defense, D’Souza’s wife was involved in an affair before he began his affair with Denise Joseph. The defense also alleged that Louis Joseph was in an affair at the same time Joseph was involved with D’Souza. Louis Joseph made a secret recording of his then-wife discussing the allegations against D’Souza. The prosecution wants to use the recording as evidence, while the defense says the man was motivated to record his wife out of spite for D’Souza.
“It is respectfully submitted that if the government intends to offer proof of defendant's affair with Denise Joseph, the door will be opened to evidence that the defendant’s conduct was no more egregious than that of other witnesses whom the government intends to offer,” D’Souza’s defense wrote. “In fact, four of the principle witnesses/characters in this case were, at various times, engaged in extramarital affairs. However distasteful, it is nevertheless a subject that will have to be discussed with each of the witnesses in order to demonstrate bias and in fairness to the defendant. At the least, it will be necessary by such proof to place the defendant’s own personal affair in proper context.”
The prosecution also expects Vawser, who was one of the straw donors to Wendy Long’s Senate campaign, to testify that D’Souza told Vawser to lie about the donation.
“The allegations in this case constitute a complete aberration from the excellent reputation for honesty [D’Souza] enjoys among his peers and colleagues,” wrote the defense, in another filing. “While his politics may be controversial, no one disputes his character, ability, and work ethic.”
Before the trial gets into such murky personal waters, District Judge Richard Berman must settle the defense’s selective prosecution motion, which claims prosecutors are targeting D’Souza because he is “a sharp critic of the Obama presidency who has incurred the president’s wrath.” The defense said the investigation against D’Souza appeared to be “fast-tracked,” and listed multiple instances where similar straw donation cases were settled through fines rather than a criminal prosecution. The defense argued that the Federal Election Commission typically doesn’t pursue criminal prosecution in cases with violations under $25,000—especially one that “lacked any evidence of corruption.”
The government, in response, listed straw donation cases in which it pursued criminal prosecution against Democratic donors in amounts as low as $8,000 and $15,000. Just two weeks ago in New York, Sant Singh Chatwal pleaded guilty to organizing $188,000 in straw donations to Democratic candidates, including Hillary Clinton, and he faces 25 years in prison. The case differs from D’Souza’s in many details, but was one example of a criminal prosecution for straw donations.
“The defendant presents no evidence to the court to support his claim of selective prosecution, only speculation and idle suspicion based upon the coincidence that he has criticized the Obama administration and now is being prosecuted by the federal government during Obama’s presidency,” prosecutors wrote. “The reality is that in virtually every case involving conduit campaign contributions, the defendant is likely to be involved in politics in one way or another, and the types of claims the defendant makes here could be made in virtually every conduit contribution case where the defendant does not support the politics of the current president.”
If the motion to dismiss the case because of selective prosecution fails, the trial is only expected to last a few days, so the jury should render a verdict well before the July 4 release of D’Souza’s new film, America.