Hunter Biden lawyers say feds reneged on tax plea deal, but gun agreement still valid

Hunter Biden, son of U.S. President Joe Biden, departs federal court after a plea hearing on two misdemeanor charges of willfully failing to pay income taxes in Wilmington, Delaware, July 26, 2023.

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

Lawyers for Hunter Biden told a judge that federal prosecutors on Friday decided to “renege” on a previously agreed deal in which the son of President Joe Biden would plea guilty to tax crimes in exchange for a recommended no-jail sentence.

But Hunter Biden’s lawyers also said in a new Delaware federal court filing that a second agreement with prosecutors that would allow him to escape conviction for a gun-related crime is “valid and binding.”

District Court Judge Maryellen Noreika, in an order Monday, told U.S. Attorney for Delaware David Weiss to respond to the filing by noon ET on Tuesday.

The new court filings are the latest developments in the Hunter Biden criminal case, which was thrown into disarray on July 26, when he appeared before Noreika for what was expected to be a hearing in which he would plead guilty.

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Weiss on Friday was appointed special counsel for the case by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland right after Weiss’ prosecutors said in a Delaware federal court filing that plea talks with Hunter Biden’s lawyer had failed.

The filing also said that the president’s son would likely face trial in California or Washington, D.C., and that he might be charged with more crimes.

Chris Clark, Hunter Biden’s lawyer, said Friday, “We are confident when all of these maneuverings are at an end my client will have resolution and will be moving on with his life successfully.”

At the July 26 hearing, Hunter Biden, who has been under investigation for five years, planned to plead guilty to two counts of failure to pay federal income taxes on annual income of more than $1.5 million in 2017 and 2018.

Weiss’ office had offered to recommend he receive a sentence of probation for those convictions.

Separately, prosecutors offered him a diversion agreement that would drop a criminal charge of having a gun while being a drug user if he abided by certain conditions for a period of time.

The agreements fell apart after Noreika questioned their terms at the hearing, and whether federal case law allowed the conditions prosecutors had set.

A key sticking point for the judge was the requirement that she, not the U.S. Department of Justice, be the one to decide if Hunter Biden violates the gun agreement over a two-year period.

Hunter Biden’s lawyer told her that requirement would avoid the deal becoming “more politicized” in the future, a clear reference to the chance that Donald Trump is elected president in 2024, and orders the DOJ to act against Hunter.

After Noreika said she would give prosecutors and defense lawyers more time to answer her questions, Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty to the tax crimes.

In their filing over the weekend, his lawyers wrote: “While counsel for the Defendant are still prepared to respond to the questions Your Honor posed at the July 26 hearing, in light of the United States’ decision on Friday to renege on the previously agreed-upon Plea Agreement, we agree that those issues are moot at this point.”

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