May 29 (UPI) -- Boris Johnson, one of the top candidates to replace Theresa May as British prime minister, will face misconduct charges over remarks he made before the 2016 vote to leave the European Union, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Judge Margot Coleman issued the summons for Johnson after 29-year-old businessman Marcus Ball raised more than $505,000 through crowdfunding to pay for the prosecution. Ball's legal team argued that Johnson lied before the Brexit referendum when he repeatedly said Britain sent $442 million weekly to the European Union.
Johnson's attorney Adrian Darbishire called the claims a "political stunt"
"The application represents an attempt, for the first time in English legal history, to employ the criminal law to regulate the content and quality of political debate," Darbishire told the court last week. "That is self-evidently not the function of the criminal law."
Coleman, though, said in a written ruling that Johnson should explain his comments.
"Having considered all the relevant factors, I am satisfied that this is a proper case to issue the summons as requested for the three offenses (of misconduct in a public office)," Coleman wrote.
"The charges are indictable only. This means the proposed defendant will be required to attend this court for a preliminary hearing, and the case will then be sent to the crown court for trial."
Ball's attorney Lewis Power said Johnson should answer for the comments, which were made while he was mayor of London and a member of British Parliament.
"Democracy demands responsible and honest leadership from those in public office," Power said. "The conduct of the proposed defendant Boris Johnson was both irresponsible and dishonest. It was, we say, criminal."
Johnson was named in a 20-page report this week by the Muslim Council of Britain calling for an investigation into the Conservative Party over accusations of Islamophobia. Conservatives Bob Blackman, Zac Goldsmith and Michael Fabricant were also named.