If federal prosecutors had their way, Obama nemesis Dinesh D’Souza would now be preparing for up to 16 months in prison. Instead, as he revealed to WND in an exclusive interview after his sentencing Tuesday for a campaign finance violation, he is laying the groundwork for another blockbuster film timed for the thick of a crucial election campaign.
D’Souza, who released “2016: Obama’s America” during the 2008 presidential campaign and “America: Imagine the World Without Her” in July, told WND that U.S. District Judge Richard Berman’s decision Tuesday morning to give him probation and community service rather than a prison sentence allows him to “continue to do what I have been doing, which is to be a public analyst and critic of politics and culture.”
“I’ve already turned the initial wheels in motion, and I will be making a film in 2016,” he told WND.
As WND reported, D’Souza was sentenced in Manhattan in his campaign finance case to eight months in a work-release center in San Diego during five years of probation and a $30,000 fine. He also must set aside one day a week during his probation to teach English to non-English speakers.
D’Souza pleaded guilty in May to arranging “straw donors” to contribute $10,000 to the failed 2012 U.S. Senate campaign of Wendy Long, a college friend.
“I’m immensely relieved,” D’Souza told WND of the sentence. “It was a remarkable day, because at the beginning I was almost discouraged by the tone of the judge. Then, when he pronounced the sentence, I almost couldn’t believe it. It took me a moment for it to register. Then I was pleased, and I think he made a fair ruling.”
Prosecutors had asked for a prison term of 10 to 16 months, insisting D’Souza had not shown remorse. D’Souza’s allies contend the case is politically motivated payback for his two successful documentaries and companion bestselling books critical of Obama and what D’Souza regards as an anti-American ideology.
D’Souza insists he is sorry for breaking the law.
“I am contrite for what I did, and I tried to express that,” he said. “But I also tried at the same time not to allow the case to deter me from making public criticism of the Obama administration.”
“I didn’t want the government to to be successful in shutting me up,” he said. “I wanted to continue to speak out candidly and uninhibitedly. I did that.”
He acknowledged the judge at times saw his stance as inconsistent with a contrite attitude.
“I don’t think it is inconsistent,” he told WND. “I think it’s quite possible to say, (a) I’m contrite for exceeding the campaign finance laws and for breaking the law, and (b) the Obama administration has been doing a lot of bad stuff, and I’m going to call them on it.”
D’Souza emphasized he did something wrong and deserved to be held accountable for it.
“I never maintained that this is something that should have received no penalty,” he said. “The only question from the beginning was, what was the just or appropriate penalty? What is the penalty that is matched to the offense itself?”
He said that’s where the “great fork in the road” came.
“We were asking for probation and community service, and the government was asking for prison.”
Some of D’Souza’s defenders have contended the Justice Department employed “selective prosecution,” fueled by political motives, not only in the decision to prosecute but also in the way the prosecution was carried out.
He pointed out his lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, is a Democrat and was reluctant at first to believe there was any political intent behind the prosecution.
“As the case proceeded, however, he became more and more befuddled by the governments’ conduct,” D’Souza said of his lawyer. “When he saw the government’s sentencing brief, it persuaded him that something was very fishy here.”
D’Souza contends the government ignored a whole series of previous cases in which people who exceeded campaign finance limits got no prison time.
Then, he said, federal prosecutors selected a handful of cases in which the accused received prison time, but the prosecutors then didn’t accurately recount the cases to the judge.
“This was not incompetence, because they knew what the facts were,” D’Souza told WND. “They carefully deleted, or excluded, all the salient facts that might tell a judge why those people got prison.”
He said Brafman “very deftly filled out the rest of the story in his reply and then summarized that, I think, very effectively to the judge.”
WND asked D’Souza if he saw the sentence as a defeat for the Obama administration.
“Well, given the disproportion between what they sought and what I got, it’s hard to see the government as being pleased with this verdict,” he replied. “I imagine that they are not happy with it.
“I would have felt very bad if I would have been somehow effectively immobilized as a public critic,” he said. “That hasn’t happened, and it’s not going to happen, and I feel very good about that.”
He said he’s grateful that Berman carefully considered the sentence.
“I suspect that at the end of the day, he looked at what happens to people who have not done this before and who have exceeded the campaign finance laws without a corrupt or self-serving motive,” he said. “And he decided to impose an equitable punishment – which is his duty under the law – and so it reaffirms my faith in American justice.
“I was hoping that the justice system would come through for me, despite what the administration might seek, and it did,” he said.
‘Shiver of fear’
D’Souza said that if the Obama administration is “successful in being able to immobilize its critics, that sends a shiver of fear throughout the country, and it actually undermines the freedom of speech that is essential in democracy.”
He noted that three possible 2016 Republican presidential candidates have found themselves under indictment or facing charges, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
“So, quite apart from the merits of each case, it’s a very strange situation when three leading Republicans who could be in the presidential running next time around – somebody is trying to put them away,” he said. “And that somebody happens to disagree with them politically.”
Judge Berman also ordered D’Souza to undergo psychological therapy during his probation period, explaining he couldn’t comprehend the psychological motivation of someone who would do something so foolish at the pinnacle of his career.
D’Souza, a native of India, explained to the judge that Long was part of his surrogate family while he was a foreign-exchange student at Dartmouth College. He said the donations were an impulsive decision to try to help Long.
He told WND the order for psychological therapy “surprised me a little bit.”
“This may be a case where he remained unsure why someone like me would do this,” D’Souza said. “And maybe he thinks I have some psychological issues that would help to illuminate that. So I’m happy to comply with that requirement.”
He said the psychological explanation is “the issue of a displaced immigrant building a surrogate family of really close friends and trying to go the extra mile to help them and doing it in the wrong way.”
D’Souza he didn’t take the steps he should have taken to ensure he followed the law – such as consulting his lawyers – because he “was juggling eight balls in the air.”
“As a result, when this came along, rather than take on a ninth ball, or not take it on at all, I think it was the fact that I rationalized this by saying, look, there is a campaign finance limit, but if two of my pals give and I reimburse them I’ll stay within the limit,” he said.
“That was wrong. I should not have done that.”
He said he will enjoy teaching English.
“I went through, for me, a very moving citizenship ceremony in 1991,” he noted. “The concept of becoming an American is to me a very powerful and moving idea.
“I also think helping immigrants to assimilate to our society and speak its language and embrace its Constitution and its way of life – I’m a strong believer in that. This is a duty that will actually be something I’m looking forward to discharging.”