NEW YORK — On the morning he was to go on trial in Manhattan, conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza pleaded guilty to one count of making campaign contributions in the names of other people, a violation of federal campaign finance laws.
D’Souza told a judge Tuesday in US District Court that he knew making a campaign contribution in the name of another “was wrong and something the law forbids.”
“Are you pleading guilty to this crime because you are in fact guilty of it?” the judge, Richard M. Berman, asked.
“Yes, your honor,” he said.
D’Souza, 53, had been charged with illegally making donations through straw donors to the 2012 New York Senate campaign of Wendy E. Long, a Republican and a friend from their college days at Dartmouth who was challenging Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, a Democrat.
Prosecutors said that D’Souza arranged in August 2012 to have two friends each donate $10,000 on behalf of themselves and their spouses, with the understanding that he would reimburse them. That resulted in a contribution of $20,000, which exceeded the $5,000 individual limit.
D’Souza’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, had argued that his client’s action had been “an act of misguided friendship,” and Brafman claimed that the government had targeted D’Souza because of his “consistently caustic and highly publicized criticism” of President Obama, an assertion that the government denied and the judge said last week was unfounded.
Carrie H. Cohen, an assistant US attorney, told Berman that D’Souza had made the $10,000 reimbursements to each of his two friends in cash.
Berman told D’Souza, who is to be sentenced on Sept. 23, that he could face up to two years in prison.