On Tuesday afternoon, it seemed that Hunter Biden would be able to make a smooth court appearance Wednesday morning in a Delaware federal district courtroom for a “sweetheart deal” on gun and tax charges. After a controversy erupted on Tuesday night, attorneys for House Ways and Means Committee Chair Rep. Jason Smith claimed that a Latham & Watkins staffer, one of the law firms representing Hunter Biden called the courthouse and said she worked with the law firm representing Smith and was able to remove Smith’s file from the docket. The presiding Judge then demanded that Biden’s lawyers show cause why they shouldn’t face sanctions. Biden’s lawyers claimed that it was not a misrepresentation but a misunderstanding. We all waited to find out if the judge believed them.
Hunter Biden’s hearing began Wednesday at 10 am. After 90 minutes, it became clear that things were not going well. We reported that the plea agreement was not going ahead because of a disagreement between the parties about what it covered. Also, there was some confusion over whether or not additional charges, possibly related to FARA violations, were included in the agreement. We then heard that there might be a revised agreement.
Biden has pleaded not guilty. It was revealed that there was no plea agreement entered at the hearing. CNN reports that Judge Maryellen Norreika said she couldn’t accept the plea deal because it was so structured. The original agreement was for Hunter Biden, to plead guilty to 2 tax misdemeanors and receive no jail time. He would also be given diversion from a felony firearm charge. Hunter’s lawyers believed the plea agreement would grant their client blanket immunity from other criminal charges. However, after prosecutors informed the Court that certain matters were still being investigated, Judge Noreika asked whether it was appropriate for immunity to be granted.
HUNTER BIDEN PLEADS NOT GUILTY TO ALL CHARGES AFTER PLEA DEAL IS JEOPARDIZED pic.twitter.com/HHpLbp9zWK
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) July 26, 2023
Fox News Sol Wisenberg says that Hunter Biden and his lawyers were all counting on Judge Noreika to accept the plea without asking any questions. He also notes that it is almost unheard of for the parties not to have a mutually agreed-upon and extremely detailed understanding of the plea agreement before appearing in court.
This just in: The judge won’t accept the proposed plea deal at least for now.
Some thoughts: Now we know why DOJ didn’t show us the plea agreement terms. What didn’t they want us to know ahead of time? A) a global immunity deal for Hunter; B) A binding plea (that is, the judge…
— Sol Wisenberg (@WisenbergSol) July 26, 2023
Wisenberg revealed that Hunter was not required to cooperate in the ongoing investigation by the government as part of the original plea agreement. He tweeted:
Just a quick update: the judge has rejected the plea agreement at least temporarily.
We now know why the DOJ did not show us the terms of plea agreements. What did they not want us to be aware of before the trial? A) a global deal of immunity for Hunter. B) A binding plea, which means that the judge has to accept the terms in the agreement if she accepts it. C) Misdemeanor Probation. D) Other unusual terms.
It is a stunning deal to grant Hunter global immunity while the investigation is still “ongoing”.
In the vast majority of federal jurisdictions, a binding plea is very rare. For example, if the plea agreement requires probation, the judge will have to give Hunter probation. This agreement is binding.
It is absurd that the prosecution and the defense could disagree in public about the terms of an agreement. The government is construed as a victim of ambiguous terms in plea agreements. The key terms of an agreement should not be subject to disagreement. This was either a case of DOJ corruption or incompetence. I believe it’s corruption. As @shipwreckedcrew pointed out, this looks like a wink-and-nod deal where DOJ could have a plausible denial if the Judge asked no questions and accepted it. A plea agreement’s most important aspect is the scope of immunity. It’s impossible that the prosecutors in this case were incompetent. Leo Wise is a man of great competence.
Consider this. DOJ was going to sanction a deal in which Hunter would receive misdemeanors probation for serious tax charges, plus pretrial diversion on the felony firearm charge (with no time served or criminal records). Hunter would receive immunity from all charges. He would also not be required to participate in the ongoing investigation by the government. Total disgrace. Merrick Garland should be ashamed. Where is Lisa Monaco now? Why hasn’t Lisa Monaco been called to give testimony?
When the plea agreement was drafted, did U.S. attorney Weiss and Hunter Biden’s attorneys think they could simply say that all investigations would be completed by the hearing date? This seems to be a logical assumption, but recent events, including the IRS whistleblowers testifying in front of Congress and the steady drip, drip, drip of corruption and compromised individuals within the U.S. attorney’s office may have changed their minds.
Hunter Biden, while attorneys and Judge Noreika discussed legal issues in the hearing, was taken out of the courtroom and processed for the two tax misdemeanors as well as the felony firearm charge.
Judge Noreika gave both attorneys 30 days to submit briefs on legal issues raised at the hearing.