Plea deal falls apart, Hunter pleads ‘not guilty’ as DOJ and defense counsel continue talks with court-imposed 14-day deadline
Federal Judge Maryellen Noreika refused to accept the sweetheart plea deal that the Department of Justice was prepared to sign off on with no prison time and only misdemeanor charges. One major issue for Judge Noreika was ambiguity over whether further charges could be brought, or if the agreement immunized Hunter from further charges arising from the issues of the case. Fox News summarizes the discussion in the hearing that lasted 3 hours.
The judge pressed federal prosecutors on the investigation and questioned whether there was the possibility for future charges, and asked prosecutors if Hunter Biden was currently under active investigation. Prosecutors said he was, but would not answer specifically what the president's son is under investigation for.
Prosecutors on Wednesday, though, said Hunter Biden pleading guilty to the two misdemeanor tax offenses would not immunize him from future charges.
At one point, Noreika asked Justice Department prosecutor Leo Wise whether there is an "ongoing investigation here."
"There is," Wise said, adding that he could not tell the judge what the investigation was.
Noreika asked if the government could potentially bring a charge related to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), to which Wise replied: "Yes."
At that point, the original plea deal broke down. Defense attorney Chris Clark said he did not agree with that.
"Then there’s no deal," Wise said.
Clark countered, "As far as I’m concerned the plea deal is null and void."
Hunter Biden's lawyer Clark had previously told the media that he was immunized from further charges under terms of the deal. I suspect that the DOJ hoped that the judge would not notice or would ignore this point, and then let the matter die with no further prosecutions.
Glenn Thrush of the New York Times reports on the annoyance Judge Noreika showed:
Judge Maryellen Noreika repeatedly — at times angrily — said she felt like she was being asked to “rubber stamp” an agreement she had serious “concerns about.”
The judge also questioned why the agreement on tax prosecutions also included Hunter’s gun offense, a separate issue.
So, now the parties have two weeks to satisfy the judge with a new plea agreement, or else the DOJ must either indict Hunter or drop the case entirely. With the wave of publicity over the rejection of the plea deal, there would be a firestorm if there were no indictment, not that it rules out a complete DOJ default. However, CNN, for instance, went live for hours with coverage of the plea deal, so the media’s strategy of ignoring news that is unfavorable to the Democrats probably won’t work.
The plea deal collapse also heightens attention that will be paid to Devin Archer’s testimony to Congress next Monday, in which he is expected to repeat his revelation that Joe Biden “dialed in” to speakerphone conversations with Hunter’s foreign clients many times – directly linking him to the corrupt schemes that paid millions of dollars to shell companies established to hide the payments to Biden family members.
I strongly suspect that Hunter desperately wants to avoid any prison time. I don’t know if he has actually beaten his addiction, and with his prominence and mouth full of false teeth, he would be a target for prison brutality of the worst sort. His choice of lifestyle suggests that the austerities of prison life would hit him hard.
He also desperately wants any plea deal to end his legal liability.
But the DOJ prosecutors must fear rejection of a new deal that does not include prison time and which immunizes Hunter from further prosecution, so coming to an agreement in two weeks may be difficult.
This entire mess highlights how outrageous it is that a special counsel was not appointed in the matter. The DOJ has an obvious conflict of interest prosecuting the president’s son when there is a potential legal liability for their boss, the POTUS.
House Republicans now have an opportunity to continue their investigations with less of a media blackout.
Judge Noreika gets my award for courage. She has to continue to live and work in Delaware, a tiny state where Biden cronies and henchmen are everywhere. She is a Trump appointee and has been on the federal bench since 2018.