Hunter Biden faced a prolonged and confrontational hearing at a federal court on Wednesday. Initially expected to plead guilty to two tax misdemeanors in a deal with the Justice Department, the hearing took an unexpected turn as disputes arose over the agreement’s scope.
Judge Maryellen Noreika raised concerns about the parameters of the plea agreement, revealing a divide between the prosecution and Hunter Biden’s legal team. As a result, the prosecution declared the deal off, causing confusion in the courtroom.
However, the judge later questioned Hunter Biden in detail about the plea agreement, pressing him line by line to explain specific elements of his guilt, such as his drug use and periods of sobriety. Biden’s demeanor shifted from genial to agitated as it became apparent that the agreement was in jeopardy.
CNN’s Kate Skanell explained, “She [Noreika] went line by line asking him to explain certain specific elements that he was pleading guilty to about his drug use about when he became sober, and how even when he was sober, he failed to pay his taxes on time.”
Another complication emerged when the judge questioned the constitutionality of a gun diversion deal included in the plea agreement. She expressed hesitation in her role as a fact-finder in potential future disputes, leading to a pause in the proceedings.
Hunter Biden left the court without making any public statement. The judge granted both sides 30 days to provide legal arguments to resolve the issues surrounding the plea agreement and the constitutionality of the gun diversion charges. The aim is to create an arrangement acceptable to both the prosecution and Biden’s team.
The court order outlined comprehensive and detailed release conditions for Hunter Biden, reflecting the seriousness of his legal situation:
- No possession of firearms.
- Prohibition on using or possessing controlled substances, including marijuana unless prescribed by a doctor, to address concerns about substance abuse.
- Full federal supervision to closely monitor Biden’s actions.
- Total abstinence from alcohol to address past struggles with substance addiction.
- Seek active employment to lead a constructive, law-abiding life.
- Regular testing for prohibited substances to enforce substance use restrictions.
- Participation in substance abuse therapy to address addiction issues and support recovery.
These conditions are not mere suggestions; they come with severe penalties for any breaches:
- Immediate issuance of an arrest warrant.
- Revocation of release, leading to a return to detention.
- Forfeiture of bond, resulting in financial repercussions.
- Prosecution for contempt of court, further complicating Biden’s legal situation.
The plea deal fell apart on Hunter Biden’s defense team earlier at Wednesday’s court hearing. The judge raised the dealbreaker issue to both the prosecutors and to Hunter Biden’s attorneys: Failure to register as a foreign agent when brokering his illicit international deals.
“So as I went back into the courtroom, the hearing had just begun again,” CNN reporter Kara Scannell said. “The judge was back on the bench and she was pressing the prosecution on this investigation and the four corners of this plea agreement. One of the prosecutors said that the investigator was very much ongoing and that she asked him, ‘Well, what is not covered in this plea agreement if you are leaving the possibility for bringing other future charges?”
“Then the judge said, would this include a possible FARA charge that’s not registering as a foreign agent?” she continued. “The prosecutor said, ‘no, the deal would not include that.’ It was at that point that she had said to the prosecution, you know… if you can charge that, then what does this mean? And the prosecutors, she asked Hunter Biden’s attorneys about that and he said, ‘Well, then there’s no deal’.”
“And the prosecutor said, ‘then there is no deal’,” she went on. “So Biden’s team said that the plea agreement, as far as they understood it was now null and void. They were moving ahead to talk about what the next steps would be in this case. So as of right now, the deal appears to be dead and off the table, and it remains to be seen how they’re going to move forward. But he has been charged with those two misdemeanor tax evasion charges. But one thing we learned is that this investigation is very much still ongoing.”
The breaking of the plea deal represents a major legal setback for the defense, as prosecutors are now being questioned over not bringing FARA violations to court. But it is not the only recent setback for Hunter Biden’s defense.
Hunter Biden’s legal representatives may face penalties for purportedly deceiving the clerk involved in the First Son’s criminal trial. Delaware’s Judge Maryellen Noreika directed Biden’s attorneys to justify their actions on Tuesday or confront possible sanctions.
The accusations state that an individual from Biden’s attorney Chris Clark’s former law firm contacted Sam Grimes, the Delaware clerk, pretending to be from Smith’s lawyer, Theodore Kittila’s office. The person is said to have requested the clerk to eliminate the original filing, which also included 448 pages of Congressional testimony from the two IRS investigators involved in the case, as reported by the Daily Mail.
Subsequently, the documents were removed and sealed, triggering a “second outraged letter” from Kittila. Kittila told the judge in his letter, “We immediately reached out to the clerk’s office, only to find out that someone claimed to be a representative from my office and requested the court to expunge this from the docket.”
Chris Clark vehemently denied the accusations in an “incensed” email response, alleging that, “the clerk independently decided to withdraw the filing.”
Nonetheless, Kittila presented an email copy from the Delaware clerk to support his assertions. He named Jessica Bengels as the individual and provided her contact number. The clerk responded by saying, “She claimed to be associated with Theodore Kittila and stressed the urgency of removing the document,”
Judge Noreika, infuriated by the alleged misconduct, commanded Hunter’s attorneys to justify their actions on Tuesday afternoon. The order stated, “It seems the caller falsely portrayed her identity and affiliation to persuade the clerk’s office to eliminate the amicus materials from the docket.”
Consequently, it was demanded, “on or before 9pm today on July 25, 2023, counsel for defendant needs to provide reasons why sanctions should not be contemplated for false representations to the court.”
Hunter Biden’s lawyers responded to the judge’s demands for an explanation on Wednesday.
“We stand prepared to address any inquiries of the Court to rectify this misunderstanding,” the lawyers claimed. “Should the Court consider this letter and the accompanying materials to be an insufficient explanation for this misunderstanding, we request an opportunity to more fully brief and be heard on the issues of concern to the Court.”
The judge did place a temporary seal on Smith’s filing, implying it won’t be accessible to the public until the finalization of Hunter Biden’s plea hearing on Wednesday.