- (Photo: Reuters/Brendan McDermid)
NEW YORK – Conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza, whose 2012 film "2016: Obama's America" is one of the highest grossing documentaries in decades, pleaded guilty before a U.S. district judge on Tuesday to a campaign finance law violation.
The filmmaker pleaded guilty to one criminal count of making illegal contributions in the names of others. A second count on making false statements is expected to be dismissed following the sentencing. D'Souza, who previously served as president of The King's College, will now avert a trial that would have begun the same day in federal court, Reuters reported.
D'Souza had pleaded not guilty in January to federal charges that he used straw donors to exceed campaign contributions to a U.S. Senate candidate in 2012.
The financial contributions in question were reportedly for Wendy Long, who was unsuccessful in her bid for the Senate seat of the Democratic Party's Kirsten Gillibrand in New York.
The New York Times reported that D'Souza arranged to have two friends each contribute $10,000 on behalf of themselves and their spouses to Long's campaign, which resulted in a $20,00 contribution – four times more than the $5,000 allowed to individuals for the 2012 elections.
Initially, the filmmakers behind "2016: Obama's America" suggested that liberal critics were targeting D'Souza because they were unhappy with the way President Barack Obama was presented in the documentary.
"The Feds have chosen to pursue this alleged minor violation in the same way the IRS targeted conservative Tea Party groups for retribution," Gerald R. (Jerry) Molen, who co-produced "2016" with D'Souza, said in a January statement.
"In light of the way the IRS has been used to stifle dissent, this arrest should send shivers down the spines of all freedom-loving Americans."
D'Souza's defense lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, had questioned whether D'Souza's indictment rises to the level of a crime.
"It's an unusual case," Brafman previously told U.S. District Judge Richard Berman. "I don't think there's much dispute as to what happened, but why it happened and whether it violated federal election law."
"2016: Obama's America" achieved substantial success at the box office and earned over $33 million from a $2.5 million budget. The documentary examined the question: "If Obama wins a second term, where will we be in 2016?" It shows D'Souza traveling around the world to "find answers to Obama's past and reveal where America will be in 2016."
Despite its box office success, the film did not receive an Oscar nomination, something which D'Souza also blamed on liberal critics.
"By ignoring 2016, the top-performing box-office hit of 2012, and pretending that films like 'Searching for Sugar Man' and 'This Is Not a Film' are more deserving of an Oscar, our friends in Hollywood have removed any doubt average Americans may have had that liberal political ideology, not excellence, is the true standard of what receives awards," the filmmaker said then.
D'Souza, who is an Indian American and a nondenominational Christian, resigned in October 2012 as president of The King's College, a Christian college in New York City, following revelations that he was engaged to another woman while still married to Dixie Brubaker, his wife of 20 years.
D'Souza, who divorced Brubaker that same month, said that they had been separated for two years, and denied that he was having an affair with the woman, Denise Odie Joseph II.
In March, D'Souza unveiled a new trailer for his upcoming July 4 movie "America" at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
The film is set to offer an imaginary look at how world history would have unfolded had the United States lost the Revolutionary War and so therefore never existed.