Judge Puts Hunter Biden's Plea Deal on Hold

Two sides have a month to hammer things out
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 26, 2023 11:38 AM CDT
Updated Jul 26, 2023 12:53 PM CDT
Hunter Biden's Plea Deal Falls Apart
Hunter Biden arrives for a court appearance Wednesday, July 26, 2023, in Wilmington, Del.   (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

A big surprise Wednesday in Hunter Biden's legal travails: A controversial plea deal derided by Republicans as too lenient is now on hold after the judge in the case raised questions about its scope, reports the New York Times. US District Court Judge Maryellen Noreika gave defense lawyers and prosecutors 30 days to explain why she should accept the deal, per the AP. In the meantime, Biden pleaded not guilty Wednesday afternoon to two tax crimes, but he will reverse that plea if the two sides come to an agreement that satisfies the judge.

Biden was charged last month with two misdemeanor tax crimes of failure to pay more than $100,000 in taxes from over $1.5 million in income in both 2017 and 2018, and he was expected to plead guilty after he made an agreement with prosecutors, who were planning to recommend two years of probation. That deal is now on hold. During Wednesday's hearing, there was a dispute in court over whether the initial agreement gave him protection against any future charges. And Noreika, who was appointed by former President Trump, raised concerns about the language of the deal.

Biden had also been charged with possession of a firearm by a person who is a known drug user, a felony. He had a Colt Cobra .38 Special for 11 days in October 2018. He had agreed to enter into a diversion agreement, which means that he would not technically plead guilty to the crime. As long as he adhered to the terms of his agreement, the case would be wiped from his record. If not, the deal would be withdrawn. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. The overlapping agreements created confusion for the judge, who said the lawyers needed to untangle the issues before moving forward. "It seems to me like you are saying 'just rubber stamp the agreement, Your Honor,'" she said. "This seems to me to be form over substance."

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The collapsed proceedings were a surprising development because the plea had been carefully negotiated over weeks and included a lengthy back-and-forth between Justice Department prosecutors and Biden's attorneys. It was meant to clear the air for Hunter Biden and avert a trial that would have generated weeks or months of distracting headlines. But the politics remain as messy as ever, with Republicans insisting he got a sweetheart deal and the Justice Department pressing ahead on investigations into Trump, the GOP's 2024 presidential primary front-runner. (More Hunter Biden stories.)

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