Hunter Biden plea deal in jeopardy after judge questions agreement

11 months ago 15

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Federal prosecutors and attorneys for President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, are at loggerheads and appear to have scrapped a deal for the lawyer and lobbyist turned artist to plead guilty to tax misdemeanour charges and enter into a diversion programme on a gun-related charge after the judge overseeing a plea hearing questioned whether the deal would preclude the government from pursuing other charges against him.

US District Judge Maryellen Noreika ordered Mr Biden’s lawyers and prosecutors to confer further after Mr Biden said he would not accept the agreement if it did not provide that the government could not charge him for any crimes currently known to prosecutors if he successfully completes the terms of the deal.

Prosecutors had agreed to ask Judge Noreika to impose a term of probation on Mr Biden for not having paid taxes on time in 2017 and 2018.

Mr Biden was also expected to enter into a diversion deal under which he’d plead guilty to charges that he’d lied on a gun background check form when he said he wasn’t a user of drugs when he bought a pistol during that same time period, but would withdraw the plea after completing the terms of the diversion agreement, which often requires community service and continued sobriety verified by drug tests.

During the court hearing, he told Judge Noreika that he’d been sober since 2019 but had been in and out of drug treatment for roughly two decades.

The sticking point in the proceedings appeared when the judge asked prosecutors and defence counsel whether they understood the hearing to conclude any criminal proceedings against Mr Biden, and when prosecutors said that was not their understanding, she ordered prosecutors and defence counsel for the president’s son to confer on whether they still have an agreement.

The chaos at the Wilmington, Delaware federal courthouse comes after years of attempts by Republicans to weaponise Hunter Biden’s private business affairs and substance abuse troubles against his father dating back to mid-2019, when then-president Donald Trump tried to blackmail Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky into announcing sham investigations into Hunter Biden and his father, who was then contemplating a run for president in the 2020 election.

Republicans have spent years alleging that Hunter Biden’s work for a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma, was the reason Mr Biden carried out Obama administration policy as vice president when he pushed Ukraine’s then-president, Petro Poroshenko, to oust a prosecutor whose firing had been demanded by the US, EU, IMF and other entities that were backing financial aid for Ukraine.

The false allegations were what motivated then-president Donald Trump to attempt to blackmail Mr Poroshenko’s successor, Volodymyr Zelensky, into announcing sham investigations into the Bidens, leading to Mr Trump’s first of two impeachment trials.

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