Conservative Indian-American author and filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza, known to be a critic of President Barack Obama, today pleaded guilty to making illegal contributions to a US Senate candidate's campaign in 2012.
D'Souza , 52, appeared before a federal judge here today and said he "deeply" regretted his conduct of violating federal campaign finance laws by making illegal contributions to a US Senate campaign.
"I knew that causing a campaign contribution to be made in the name of another was wrong and something the law forbids," D'Souza, wearing a black suit and a colorful tie, said softly in court.
D'souza in January this year had pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against him by Manhattan's India-born top federal prosecutor Preet Bharara.
He had been charged with one count of making USD 20,000 in illegal campaign contributions to a candidate for the United States Senate in 2012. The charge carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.
He was also charged with one count of making false statements to the Federal Election Commission in connection with the illegal campaign contributions, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
D'Souza's trial was scheduled to start on May 19 but he decided to change his plea to guilty. Under the plea agreement with prosecutors, D'Souza agreed to plead guilty to the illegal contribution count. The prosecutors would dismiss the false statements count when D'Souza is sentenced in September. While the plea deal calls for 10 to 16 months in jail, D'Souza could seek a lenient sentence and be fined up to USD 250,000.
Last week, Manhattan Federal Judge Richard Berman had rejected D'Souza's claim that he was being prosecuted because he had been a critic of Obama.
D'Souza, a Mumbai-native and a best-selling conservative author, had come in for severe criticism for his 2012 documentary '2016: Obama's America'.
The Obama campaign had accused him of launching a smear campaign against the President and alleging that the movie was a deliberate distortion of Obama's record and world view.
The documentary had equated re-election of Obama with the death and dismemberment of the US and had been running at number three on the top movies list when it was released.
According to the allegations in the indictment, the Election Act had in 2012 limited both primary and general election campaign contributions to a total of USD 5,000 from any individual to any one candidate.