Hunter Biden’s Plea Deal on Hold After Judge Questions Agreement

Hunter Biden’s Plea Deal on Hold After Judge Questions Agreement
Hunter Biden arrives at the J. Caleb Boggs Federal Building in Wilmington, Del., on July 26, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)
Joseph Lord
Savannah Hulsey Pointer

WILMINGTON, Del.—First son Hunter Biden’s plea deal hearing on July 26 ended with a deferment of action, as the judge in the case had objections to its structure. Because of the decision, Mr. Biden entered a plea of not guilty for the time being.

The high-profile first son appeared in Wilmington, Delaware, before Judge Maryellen Noreika on several charges related to his alleged willful failure to pay income tax, and possession of a firearm while being an unlawful user of a controlled substance, which constitutes a felony offense.

Under the proposed pretrial diversion agreement, which was a preliminary agreement between Mr. Biden’s attorneys and the prosecutor, David Weiss, Mr. Biden agreed to plead guilty to the tax charges in exchange for immunity from other potential tax, gun, and drug crimes that may have been committed during the period from 2014 to 2019. Prosecutors recommended probation as part of the deal.

However, Judge Noreika, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump and is presiding over the case, raised concerns about the scope and enforceability of the diversion agreement.

Pretrial diversions are usually relatively narrow in scope, providing a defendant immunity from prosecution for narrowly defined crimes.

She expressed confusion about the intricacies of the intertwined deals and questioned whether Mr. Biden would have agreed to plead guilty to the tax charges had the diversion agreement not been included.

To this, the attorneys representing Mr. Biden confirmed that he would still have entered the plea despite any enforcement issues that might arise later.

During the trial, the judge raised concerns that the diversion offered by the prosecution would be too broad in scope and left her largely out of the process.

The Pretrial Diversion

In a significant development during the plea deal hearing, it was revealed that the pretrial diversion agreement, originally thought to pertain solely to a gun charge, encompassed broader provisions shielding Mr. Biden from potential tax, gun, and drug crime prosecutions. 

The complexity of the issue led to confusion in the courtroom, and the judge raised questions about the agreement’s validity, citing nonstandard procedures in its drafting and execution.

In presenting the document, attorneys for both sides indicated that the judge’s only responsibility was to sign off on the agreement because it had been approved by both parties. Judge Noreika, however, told attorneys that doing so would mean little more than “rubber stamping” the document.

When the judge asked for a precedent to such a move, attorneys for both sides were unable to provide one, simply saying the deal was a “bilateral” agreement that would serve the interests of each side.

Apparently frustrated with the lack of clarity and uneasy about the potential ramifications of the deal, Judge Noreika inquired, “What if ... I don’t do what you all have decided I’m gonna do?” She deferred the decision on the plea deal to allow for further examination of its details and her own authority to accept or reject it.

Mr. Biden entered a not-guilty plea during the hearing, pending the judge’s final decision on the diversion agreement. Judge Noreika emphasized that her deferral should not be interpreted as a definitive acceptance or rejection of the agreement, signaling her intention to carefully consider all aspects of the plea deal and its potential implications.

As part of the conditions for staying out of jail, Judge Noreika ordered Mr. Biden to abstain from alcohol and illegal drugs, submit to random drug testing, not possess a firearm, seek employment, and communicate all international travel plans.

Previous Attempts to Submit Evidence

The plea deal came as part of an investigation by Mr. Weiss that has dominated headlines over the past several weeks due in part to allegations from two IRS whistleblowers claiming that the IRS and Department of Justice interfered in the investigation into Mr. Biden to protect his family.

The investigation into the president’s son started in November 2018 as an offshoot of a separate investigation into a corporation by the IRS. Across the course of the investigation, IRS investigators said they learned that Mr. Biden had received millions of dollars from foreign nationals in Romania, China, and Ukraine.

Revealing the charges, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (R-Mo.) said that Mr. Biden had failed to report more than $2 million in income from foreign sources, part of more than $17 million that Mr. Biden is accused of having received.

The lawmaker also filed an amicus brief (pdf) on July 25 in the Federal District Court, encouraging the judge the throw out the agreement that Mr. Biden had reached with prosecutors.

In the brief, Mr. Smith cited testimony from two IRS investigators. The whistleblowers claimed that the first son received preferential treatment from the Department of Justice, causing the lawmaker to ask the judge to consider that testimony when deciding whether to approve the plea agreement.

Mr. Smith said in his brief that he “has been made aware that the Defendant appears to have benefited from political interference which calls into question the propriety of the investigation of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

The IRS ultimately recommended three charges against Hunter Biden: a felony attempt to defeat or evade taxes, making felony fraudulent or false statements, and willful failure to file returns, supply information, or pay tax.

Mr. Smith’s brief pointed to concern that those charges are believed to be inadequate to reflect Mr. Biden’s actions. Several Republicans have spoken out to condemn the plea agreement as a “sweetheart deal.”

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