Panic in Delaware: Hunter Biden pleads not guilty after deal falls through

by WorldTribune Staff, July 26, 2023

After his attorneys fought the introduction of IRS whistleblower testimony, Hunter Biden’s plea deal on criminal charges unraveled during a court hearing in Wilmington, Delaware on Wednesday. The first son entered a plea of not guilty and the Trump-appointed judge hearing the case put the deal on hold.

U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika said she needed more information before deciding whether to sign off on the deal.

“These agreements are not straightforward and they contain atypical provisions,” Noreika said, adding: “I’m not in a position where I can decide to accept or reject a plea agreement and I need to defer it.”

Hunter Biden arrives at federal court in Wilmington, Delaware on Wednesday. / Video Image

The action was preceded by a flurry of last-minute legal maneuvers in the background of a high-stakes battle that could implicate President Joe Biden.

Hunter Biden was charged last month with two misdemeanor crimes of failure to pay more than $100,000 in taxes from over $1.5 million in income in both 2017 and 2018 and had been expected to plead guilty Wednesday after he made an agreement with prosecutors, who were planning to recommend two years of probation.

Noreika, however, raised multiple concerns about the deal, which critics have said amounted to nothing more than a slap on the wrist. The deal also included an agreement on a separate gun felony charge in which Hunter Biden has accused of possessing a firearm in 2018 as a drug user. As long as he adhered to the terms of his agreement, the gun case was to be be wiped from his record. Otherwise, the felony charge carries 10 years in prison.

The conditions of release for Hunter Biden, posted by the Marco Polo research group. / Twitter

“It seems to me like you are saying ‘just rubber stamp the agreement, Your Honor.’ … This seems to me to be form over substance,” the judge said. Noreika gave defense lawyers and prosecutors 30 days to explain why she should accept the deal. In the meantime, Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty to the tax charges.

“The last-minute upheaval before Judge Noreika, who was appointed to the bench by former President Donald Trump, marks the latest twist in a meandering and politically explosive Justice Department investigation into Hunter Biden’s finances, business dealings and well-documented drug and alcohol addiction, and ensures that his legal problems will continue to be front and center in the 2024 presidential campaign,” the Wall Street Journal noted.

On Tuesday, Rep. Jason Smith of Missouri, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, filed a brief in the case urging the court to consider rejecting the plea deal. The brief highlighted recent testimony heard from two IRS investigators alleging that political considerations might have infected the Hunter Biden investigation. “In the interest of full transparency and fairness for all citizens, it is critical for the Court to have this information,” the brief said.


The court required that Biden seek employment and abstain from all alcohol and drugs. / Twitter

Also on Tuesday, Judge Noreika said a member of Hunter Biden’s legal team misrepresented herself in a phone call to the court.

During the hearing, Hunter Biden told the judge he had been in treatment at least six times in the past two decades for his drug and alcohol addiction and said the last time he used drugs or alcohol was June 2019.

Prosecutor Leo Wise said during the hearing that the investigation into Hunter Biden’s activities are ongoing and said in response to a question from the judge that Joe Biden’s son could face additional foreign-lobbying charges.

In response, Hunter Biden’s lawyer, Chris Clark, said he disagreed with that interpretation, believed the agreement foreclosed the possibility of additional charges, and said: “As far as I’m concerned, the plea agreement is null and void.”

After a break, Hunter Biden’s legal team said the agreement covered his liability related to tax offenses from 2014 through 2019, and covered drug and gun charges, but acknowledged that it didn’t shield him from other types of charges.

Judge Noreika then pressed both sides on provisions included in the plea deal, including why the tax deal was brought under a statute that removes the court’s ability to vet it, while the gun deal includes a requirement that the court decide whether Hunter Biden has breached the deal.

In a brief but explosive order Tuesday afternoon, Noreika wrote that an employee at Latham & Watkins, a law firm representing the first son, had called the court clerk’s office and falsely claimed to work for a Republican lawyer in the hopes of persuading the clerk to remove documents that apparently contained Hunter Biden’s personal tax information.

The documents in question had been submitted earlier in the day as part of the amicus brief filed by Rep. Smith.

Reports say that a dispute arose over Smith’s filing, which was signed and submitted to the court by Theodore Kittila, the managing partner of the Wilmington law firm Halloran Farkas + Kittila.

Shortly after Kittila filed the brief, the clerk’s office informed the judge that a Latham employee, Jessica Bengels, had called the clerk and falsely claimed to work with Kittila. During the call, Bengels asked that Smith’s filing be removed from the public docket due to sensitive information in it, the judge wrote in her order.

“It appears that the caller misrepresented her identity and who she worked for in an attempt to improperly convince the Clerk’s Office to remove the amicus materials from the docket,” Noreika wrote, before ordering Hunter Biden’s legal team to explain why Noreika should not issue formal sanctions “for misrepresentations to the Court.”

The Biden legal team called it an “unfortunate and unintentional miscommunication.”

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