A federal Delaware judge ordered defense attorneys and prosecutors Thursday to provide a status report regarding a felony gun charge against Hunter Biden.
Judge Maryellen Noreika directed attorneys to provide the report by next Wednesday, including steps they believe must be taken by the court.
Biden attorneys have argued that a “diversion agreement” sparing him from prosecution on the gun charge is still in place. However, it was intricately linked to a misdemeanor tax offense plea deal that imploded during a July court appearance.
Noreika dismissed the tax case, and prosecutors indicated they plan to go after tax charges against President Joe Biden’s son in a different district, perhaps Washington, D.C., or California.
In the meantime, prosecutors maintain the agreement on the gun charge, which contains unprecedented immunity provisions against federal prosecutions for other possible crimes, is no longer valid and never took effect.
The two-part deal on gun and tax charges was supposed to have primarily wrapped up a years-long investigation overseen by Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss. The deal fell apart after Judge Noreika questioned its terms during a July hearing. Among other issues, prosecutors could not resolve the concerns by the judges about offering Biden immunity for specific crimes as part of the diversion agreement, instead of in the plea deal.
Typically, a non-prosecution agreement requires no court input and is not presented to a judge. On the other hand, a plea deal must be submitted to a judge, but prosecutors tried to structure Biden’s tax plea deal in a way that gave Noreika no discretion to reject or accept it. The judge expressed concern lawyers were asking her to simply “rubber stamp” the deal, which she has so far refused to do.
Prosecutor says no precedent for agreeing not to prosecute Hunter Biden
When pressed by Noreika, prosecutor Leo Wise said he couldn’t find a precedent for agreeing not to prosecute Hunter Biden for crimes unrelated to the gun case or the charges being diverted. Wise also acknowledged that he hadn’t ever seen a diversion agreement in which the agreement not to prosecute is so broad it encompasses crimes in a separate case. He also couldn’t offer any precedent for requiring prosecutors to first obtain court approval before prosecuting Biden for specific crimes in the future.
“These agreements are not straightforward and contain some atypical provisions,” noted Noreika.
Before the hearing, Republicans denounced Biden’s plea agreement, calling it a “sweetheart deal.” The deal called for Hunter Biden to be sentenced to probation in exchange for pleading guilty to failing to pay taxes on over $1.5 million in income for 2017 and 2018. According to prosecutors, during those two years, the president’s son included roughly $4 million in consulting and business fees from a company he formed with the CEO of a Chinese business conglomerate, and from Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company.
Meanwhile, the diversion agreement, was aimed at sparing Biden from prosecution on the felony crime of being a drug user in possession of a gun in 2018 if he stayed out of trouble for two years. Hunter Biden’s history of financial dealings and drug use have trailed his father’s political career.
After the collapse of the plea deal, Attorney General Merrick Garland named Weiss as special counsel, which is a status that confers broad powers to probe and then report out his findings.