Judge says she's not ready to accept Hunter Biden's plea deal
The judge in the Hunter Biden case said Wednesday she is not ready to accept the plea deal struck between the president's son and the Justice Department, and asked both parties to submit additional briefs and return to the court on a future date.
Judge Maryellen Noreika demanded that the lawyers from both sides make clear that the deal does not convey broad immunity offered to Biden from prosecution on his business dealings.
As a result, Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanor offenses related to his filing of federal income taxes. He will reverse that plea if a new plea agreement meets Noreika's approval.
The development comes a little more than a month after Biden agreed to plead guilty to two misdemeanor offenses related to his filing of federal income taxes. Federal authorities also charged him with a felony firearm offense, for which he agreed to enter a pretrial diversion agreement that allows him to avoid prosecution.
According to David Weiss, the Trump-appointed Delaware U.S. attorney, Biden did not pay federal income taxes for either 2017 or 2018, despite owing more than $100,000 in taxes each year. Additionally, in October 2018 Biden possessed a firearm despite knowing he was an unlawful user of and addicted to a controlled substance, Weiss' office said.
Biden faced a maximum penalty of 12 months in prison on each of the tax charges and a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison on the firearm charge, but Weiss' office noted that actual sentences determined by judges are typically less than the maximums. A source familiar with the deal said the Justice Department had agreed to recommend probation on the tax charges but a judge will make the ultimate decision.
Republicans have said the plea deal struck was an example of unfair treatment for Biden soon after former President Donald Trump was arraigned on separate and unrelated federal charges related to his handling of classified documents. Trump himself wrote on his social media site Truth Social: "The corrupt Biden DOJ just cleared up hundreds of years of criminal liability by giving Hunter Biden a mere 'traffic ticket.' Our system is BROKEN!" Trump could also be indicted on charges related to efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
The White House declined to comment on the charges, saying in a statement: "The president and first lady love their son and support him as he continues to rebuild his life."
Allies of Hunter Biden have pointed to data suggesting it is rare for the Justice Department to bring a weapons charge against a nonviolent offender absent other patterns of lawbreaking, especially since the Supreme Court upended gun regulations in a landmark case last year. They added that Biden's back taxes had been paid "in full" more than two years ago.
Wednesday's decision by the judge follows a lengthy investigation by Weiss in Delaware, where the Biden family has established a political dynasty. President Biden served as a U.S. senator from Deleware for 36 years before he became vice president in 2009, and his late son Beau worked as attorney general there. (Beau died in 2015.)
A grand jury in the state has been hearing from witnesses close to Hunter Biden for months. His legal team had said publicly that he faced investigation on his tax practices and other business interests overseas.
At the same time of some of the conduct at issue in the investigation, Hunter Biden struggled with alcohol and drug addictions and a messy personal life.
The White House continued to decline comment on the legal troubles of the president's son, referring questions to Hunter Biden's legal team and the Justice Department.
"Hunter Biden is a private citizen, and this was a personal matter for him," press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told White House reporters Wednesday afternoon. "As we have said, the president, the first lady, they love their son and they support him as he continues to rebuild his life. This case was handled independently as all of you know by the Justice Department under the leadership of a prosecutor appointed by the former president, President Trump."
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