During Hunter Biden’s initial court session on Wednesday, the anticipated plea deal unraveled as he proclaimed his innocence, while federal prosecutors verified that the son of the president continues to be under federal scrutiny.
The initial agreement would have seen Hunter Biden admitting guilt to two minor tax misdemeanors of intentionally failing to pay federal income taxes, thereby bypassing jail time for a serious firearms charge.
However, Judge Maryellen Noreika was not persuaded by the terms of the plea deal, particularly questioning its constitutionality, particularly the diversion clause and the protection it would grant Hunter Biden.
The expectation was that Hunter Biden would participate in a pretrial diversion deal related to an independent felony charge for having a firearm while being an illicit user of, or dependent on, a controlled substance.
Judge Noreika challenged federal prosecutors about the ongoing investigation and the possibility of future charges, and probed whether Hunter Biden was still under active scrutiny. Prosecutors confirmed this but remained vague on the specific focus of the investigation.
In Wednesday’s proceedings, the prosecutors clarified that Hunter Biden’s confession to the minor tax charges wouldn’t safeguard him from potential future charges.
Justice Department prosecutor Leo Wise confirmed to Judge Noreika that an investigation was indeed ongoing but refrained from sharing its details. The possibility of a charge relating to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) was confirmed, which led to the collapse of the original plea deal, as Defense attorney Chris Clark disagreed with it.
“As far as I’m concerned, the plea deal is null and void,” Clark stated after Wise said there was no deal, which led both parties to request the judge for additional negotiation time. Judge Noreika granted this and left the court room for approximately 20 minutes.
Eventually, Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty due to Judge Noreika’s refusal to approve the plea deal as originally presented. The judge repeatedly voiced her concerns about the constitutionality of the diversion deal tied to the serious firearms charge, and outlined the issues she saw with the plea deal.
The judge apologized to Hunter Biden towards the end of the hearing, stating, “Mr. Biden, I know you want to get this over with, and I’m sorry, but I need to get more information to do justice as I’m required to do.”
The judge didn’t set a definitive date but requested briefings from both sides. She asked Hunter Biden about his sobriety and business partnerships, particularly payments received from foreign companies such as Burisma Holdings in Ukraine and his joint venture with CEFC, a Chinese energy firm.
Simultaneously, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre addressed Hunter Biden’s case at the start of the daily briefing, emphasizing that it was a personal matter and that the Justice Department handled the case independently.
Allegations of misconduct by the Department of Justice have emerged following IRS whistleblower testimony in the investigation into the president’s son. IRS whistleblowers Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler claimed that politics played a part in prosecutorial decisions during the inquiry.
Furthermore, the judge issued a warning to Hunter Biden’s legal team on the day before the court session, threatening sanctions after an attorney allegedly lied about her identity when requesting the removal of IRS whistleblower testimony from the court docket. The defense refuted these claims, referring to the situation as a regrettable and unintentional miscommunication.