NEW YORK — Filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza, whose movie “2016: Obama’s America” rocked the 2012 presidential election campaign, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a charge that involves two instances of illegal campaign contributions.
In a hearing before U.S. District Judge Richard Berman that lasted just under an hour, he admitted reimbursing friends for making contributions to Wendy Long’s U.S. Senate campaign in 2012.
He confirmed that he reimbursed two friends $10,000 in cash for their contributions to the campaign. The federal limit for individuals making contributions was $5,000.
The plea bargain had been expected. In a statement announcing the Tuesday hearing, the U.S. attorney’s office used language “that typically indicates that a plea is expected to occur,” according to a New York Times analysis.
Long was challenging Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., in the 2012 race and the filmmaker had friends contribute $20,000 then reimbursed them in cash, according to details available through the court hearing.
The contributions to the campaign were made Aug. 19 and 20, 2012.
Berman scheduled a sentencing hearing for Sept. 23 and told D’Souza to report to the probation office for a pre-sentencing investigation.
Court officials said the sentencing range for the counts runs up to 24 months, although the judge has sentencing discretion.
WND learned that negotiations resulted in federal prosecutors agreeing to drop allegations that D’Souza made false statements to be filed with the FEC, a second charge that carried a maximum penalty of five years.
D’Souza was not available for comment and his attorneys did not meet with reporters.
In a statement released by his attorney, Benjamin Brafman, D’Souza said he was accepting responsibility for “having urged two close associates to make contributions” to the unsuccessful campaign and then reimbursing them.
The statement said that because of the “technical nature” of the charges, there was no “viable defense.”
The statement said it was hoped that Berman would recognize the responsible life D’Souza has led.
The filmmaker was charged in January with the campaign-finance counts.
A trial in the case had been expected to begin on Tuesday on the charges D’Souza was making contributions in the names of others.
D’Souza ‘s newest project is called “America” and is expected to be released this summer.
D’Souza said he was not happy that his predictions about Obama in “2016: Obama’s America,” have come true.
But if Obama was upset about that movie, he said, “Wait until he sees the new one.”
He said Obama is “playing out our script” like an actor.
“He reminds me a bit of a toy soldier who walks into the wall and keeps going,” D’Souza said.
As WND reported, Republican Sens. Charles E. Grassley, Jeff Sessions, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee are among the lawmakers who have signed a letter to the FBI demanding details of the D’Souza investigation, saying it smacks of “selective prosecution.”
The suggestion was that there have been a multitude of campaign contribution cases, but most have not been prosecuted in the way the D’Souza case was handled.
WND reported Gerald Molen, the producer of D’Souza’s two full-length feature film documentaries, “2016: Obama’s America,” released in 2012, and the about-to-be-released “America,” characterized D’Souza’s criminal indictment as a Soviet-style “political prosecution.”
“When Dinesh D’Souza can be prosecuted for making a movie, every American should ask themselves one question: ‘What will I do to preserve the First Amendment?'” he said.
D’Souza told WND that Molen also was harassed by the Obama administration for his role producing D’Souza’s full-length feature film documentaries.
“Right after ‘2016’ came out, Molen got a call from the IRS,” D’Souza said.
See the newly released trailer for “America”: