By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. government wants conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza to be sentenced to as much as 16 months in prison, following his guilty plea to a campaign finance law violation.
In a Wednesday court filing, federal prosecutors rejected defense arguments that D’Souza was “ashamed and contrite” about his crime, had “unequivocally accepted responsibility,” and deserved a sentence of probation with community service.
D’Souza, 53, admitted in May to illegally reimbursing two “straw donors” who donated $10,000 each to the unsuccessful 2012 U.S. Senate campaign in New York of Wendy Long, a Republican he had known since attending Dartmouth College in the early 1980s.
The government said a 10- to 16-month prison sentence was appropriate for D’Souza, and necessary to deter others from abusing the election process, including “well-heeled individuals who are tempted to use their money to help other candidates.”
It also said D’Souza waited to “the last possible moment” prior to trial before admitting guilt, and then went on TV shows and the Internet to complain about being “selectively” targeted for prosecution, and having little choice but to plead guilty.
“Based on the defendant’s own post-plea statements, the court should reject the defendant’s claims of contrition on the eve of sentencing,” prosecutors led by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan said in the filing.
Benjamin Brafman, a lawyer for D’Souza, said in response to the filing: “Any suggestion that Mr. D’Souza has not fully accepted responsibility for his conduct is patently absurd.”
U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan is scheduled to sentence D’Souza on Sept. 23. The defendant faces a maximum of two years in prison.
The case against D’Souza, a critic of President Barack Obama, has prompted some conservatives to accuse the government of selective prosecution. Bharara is an Obama appointee.
In his own sentencing recommendation on Sept. 3, D’Souza said he “cannot believe how stupid I was, how careless, and how irresponsible.”
That recommendation also contained many statements of support, including from conservative commentator and Dartmouth alumnus Laura Ingraham, and even sometime adversaries such as the literary theorist Stanley Fish.
D’Souza was born in Mumbai and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1991. He wrote the bestsellers “The Roots of Obama’s Rage” in 2010 and “America: Imagine a World Without Her” this year, and in 2012 co-directed the film “2016: Obama’s America.”
The case is U.S. v. D’Souza, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 14-cr-00034.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Additional reporting by Abinaya Vijayaraghavan in Bangalore; Editing by Lisa Shumaker, Bernard Orr)
[Image: Conservative commentator and best-selling author, Dinesh D’Souza exits the Manhattan Federal Courthouse after pleading guilty in New York in this file photo taken on May 20, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/Files]