The federal judge who ultimately rejected Hunter Biden’s plea deal publicly released the proposed settlement on Wednesday.
Judge Maryellen Noreika granted a request from NBC reporter Tom Winter for the complete plea deal to be released. Neither the prosecutors nor Biden’s objected.
Significant portions of the agreement were read in court on July 26, when the president’s son’s proposed deal with prosecutors to plead guilty to tax charges and avoid a gun charge hit a significant snag when Judge Noreika said she needed additional time to review the agreement.
“Those agreements should be publicly docketed given that they were discussed in open court and played a role in Your Honor’s decision on the proposed plea deal,” wrote Winter in his request.
Noreika also released the diversion agreement, which included a clause that the U.S agreed to “not criminally prosecute Biden, outside of the terms of this Agreement, or any federal crimes encompassed by the attached Statement of Facts (Attachment A) and the Statement of Facts attached as Exhibit 1 to the Memorandum of Plea Agreement filed this same day.”
Hunter Biden had initially agreed to plead guilty to two tax evasion charges and minor gun charges to the protest of GOP lawmakers.
After Noreika rejected the deal, the president’s son pleaded not guilty to failing to pay taxes on over $1.5 million in income in 2017 and 2018 despite owing over $100,000, alleging prosecutors.
The GOP heads of three House committees announced Monday in a letter they will investigate the circumstances surrounding Hunter Biden’s failed plea deal.
The letter was signed by House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer, R-Ky., Ways and Means Chair Jason Smith, a Republican from Missouri, and GOP Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan of Ohio, and was sent to Attorney General Merrick Garland less than a week after Noreika rejected the plea deal, describing it as “not standard” and questioning the diversion agreement included in the deal.
Complications marked another twist in the case against Hunter Biden
The plea deal’s complications marked another twist in the case, haunted by questions about possible prosecutorial delay, political bias, and debate over whether Hunter Biden was being treated too leniently or harshly because of who his father is.
The judge’s skepticism also focused the spotlight on Hunter Biden and renewed questions over what investigations could be ongoing and how they could affect his father during a reelection campaign.
The agreement is a type not typically approved by a judge. However, this diversion agreement referenced in the proposed plea that prosecutors submitted, which created a bifurcated deal in which the assurances sought by Hunter Biden — that he wouldn’t be pursued for other foreign lobbying or tax charges — wasn’t a part of the gun diversion agreement, said lawyers in court.
The gun diversion agreement said if Biden, a recovering addict, failed to meet specific conditions over the next two years and remain drug-free, Norieka could determine if he had broken the agreement’s terms and tell prosecutors they could revive the gun charge against him.
The attorney for Biden hinted such language could protect him if a biased prosecutor accused him of breaching the agreement at some point and argued the case had been highly politicized. While Judge Noreika said she understood the reasoning, the deal is unconstitutional, and prosecutors could void it and charge Hunter Biden anyway.
Noreika questioned if she could lawfully make the type of determination spelled out in the documents because she isn’t a party to the diversion agreement, and that judges are not typically responsible for pursuing criminal charges.
“I have concerns about the constitutionality of this provision, so I have concerns about the constitutionality of this agreement,” said Noreika during the proceedings.
Additionally, the judge asked the prosecutors if there was a precedent for the provision constructed this way.
The prosecutor replied, no.
At one point in the proceeding, Noreika appeared exasperated and said the lawyers expected her to simply “rubber-stamp” the agreement they struck.
Noreika told the two sides to work on the issue. In the meantime, she said that since the situation remains unresolved, the criminal charges in the proposed plea deal remain active.
The disagreement over immunity that surfaced early in the hearing had been known since the deal was struck. Hunter Biden’s attorney said it would resolve the investigation into the younger Biden, while the U.S. Attorney in Delaware, David Weiss, said the probe was ongoing.
In court, Hunter Biden said he was prepared to plead guilty. However, when Judge Noreika asked whether he would still do so if it were possible, he could have additional charges filed against him in the future, he answered no.
Prosecutors described the federal investigation into Biden as ongoing but, when asked by Noreika, would not reveal any further details.
“As far as I’m concerned, the plea agreement is null and void,” said Christ Clark, Biden’s lawyer.
After a quick discussion between the defense lawyers and prosecutors, Clark told the prosecutors, “I don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish by blowing this up.”
One prosecutor, Leo Wise, pointed to papers related to the case and said the terms in the documents bound him.
“Then we misunderstood; we’re ripping it up,” shot back Clark.