Hunter Biden’s plea deal fell apart during his first appearance in court Wednesday morning, and he pleaded “not guilty” as federal prosecutors confirmed the son of President Joe Biden remains under federal investigation.
The younger Biden was expected to plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax counts of willful failure to pay federal income tax as part of a plea deal arranged to help him avoid jail time on an additional felony gun charge.
However, Judge Maryellen Noreika did not accept the plea agreement and questioned its constitutionality — specifically, the immunity Hunter Biden would receive and the diversion clause.
Hunter Biden was also expected to enter into a pretrial diversion agreement related to a separate felony charge of possession of a firearm by an individual who is addicted to a controlled substance or is an unlawful user.
Judge Noreika questioned whether there was the possibility of future charges and pressed federal prosecutors on the investigation if Hunter Biden was currently under active investigation. Prosecutors confirmed he was but would not answer precisely what the president’s son is under investigation for.
Wednesday, though, prosecutors said Hunter Biden pleading not guilty to the two misdemeanor tax offenses would not make him immune from future charges.
During the appearance, Noreika asked Leo Wise, Justice Department prosecutor, whether there is an “ongoing investigation here.”
“There is,” said Wise, adding that he could not reveal to the judge what the investigation was.
The judge then inquired whether the government could potentially bring a charge related to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), to which Wise responded, “Yes.”
At that point, Defense attorney Chris Clark said he disagreed, and the original plea deal broke down.
“Then there’s no deal,” said Wise.
“As far as I’m concerned, the plea deal is null and void,” countered Clark.
Both sides then asked the judge for time to negotiate, and Noreika left the courtroom for 20 minutes to allow the sides to continue negotiations.
Judge couldn’t accept plea deal; Hunter Biden pleads not guilty
Ultimately, Judge Noreika could not accept the plea deal as it was constructed, and Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty.
She expressed her concerns about the constitutionality of the diversion deal as it related to the federal gun charge and specified that the primary issue with the agreement was that if Hunter Biden breached the deal, the judge would have to make a finding on the matter before the government could make charges.
Noreika said she saw that possibility as being “outside of my lane” and noted if the diversion agreement could be unconstitutional, the entire plea deal would be unconstitutional, meaning Hunter Biden would not receive immunity.
The diversion was an agreement in which the government wouldn’t charge Hunter Biden with the more serious gun charge — if he pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor tax charges and behaved under the terms of the agreement for around 24 months. If he breached it, the government would try to bring the gun charge against him.
At that point, the government would present the information to the judge, and the judge would be required to decide whether charges should be brought. Noreika rejected that portion of the diversion, saying it would be unconstitutional because charging decisions are made by the executive branch, not the judicial branch.
The judge asked for briefings from both sides, but no firm date was set.
Noreika also questioned Hunter Biden on his business dealings — notably money he received from foreign business partners like his joint venture with Chinese energy firm CEFC and Ukrainian natural gas firm Burisma Holdings and his sobriety.
While Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre delivered a statement at the start of the daily briefing.
“Hunter Biden is a private citizen, and this was a personal matter for him. As we have said, the president, the first lady — they love their son, and they support him as he continues to rebuild his life,” said Jean-Pierre. “This case was handled independently, as all of you know, by the Justice Department under the leadership of a prosecutor appointed by the former president, President Trump.”
Jean-Pierre added: “So for anything further, as you know, and we’ve been very consistent from here, I’d refer you to the Department of Justice and to Hunter’s representatives, who is his legal team, obviously, who can address any of your questions.”
The Wednesday case developments come after IRS whistleblower testimony revealed allegations of DOJ misconduct throughout the lengthy probe into the president’s son. IRS whistleblowers Joseph Ziegler and Gary Shapley said politics influenced prosecutorial decisions throughout the investigation.
In the meantime, on the eve of the court appearance, the judge threatened to sanction Hunter Biden’s legal team after one of his attorneys allegedly lied about who she was while requesting to remove IRS whistleblower testimony from the court docket.
The defense denied the allegations, saying the incident was “an unfortunate and unintentional miscommunication.”