Fri. Jun 21st, 2024

An agreement expected to see US President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, plead guilty to tax charges and admit a gun offense has dramatically fallen apart in court.

The plea deal, negotiated over several weeks, was expected to spare the younger Mr Biden prison time.

But a judge on Wednesday said she could not “rubber stamp the agreement”.

The case marks the first time the justice department has charged the child of a sitting president.

It follows a five-year investigation into the finances of Hunter Biden, who arrived on Wednesday morning at the court in Wilmington, Delaware.

In a plea agreement announced last month, the US first son was to be charged with two misdemeanor counts for failing to pay his taxes on time in 2017 and 2018.

He was also to admit that he had illegally possessed a gun while being a drug user, and agree to drug treatment and monitoring in lieu of a more serious felony charge and possible jail time.

But during the hearing, US District Court Judge Maryellen Noreika questioned whether the deal would provide Hunter Biden with immunity from crimes he could be found liable for in the future.

Defense lawyers had cast the plea deal as the final chapter in the inquiry into their client’s finances, but prosecutors confirmed in court that their probe is “ongoing”.

Officials with the justice department are still investigating whether Hunter Biden violated federal laws that required him to register as a foreign agent while working in China and Ukraine during his father’s vice presidency, CNN reported.

Legal teams for both sides were seen negotiating in full view of reporters inside the court in an effort to salvage the deal or carve out a narrower agreement.

But the hearing ended with Judge Noreika, a Trump appointee, declining to sign the deal. She gave the two parties 14 days to hash out a new deal and brief her.

Mr. Biden, who initially offered to enter a guilty plea, ended the hearing by pleading not guilty to the allegations against him.

The misdemeanor tax counts are minor charges compared to the more serious allegations against Hunter Biden that congressional Republicans have introduced to committee hearings.

Republicans have alleged that Hunter Biden has been given an unusually lenient plea deal because he is the president’s son.

That claim is denied by the US Attorney for Delaware, David Weiss, who led the investigation.

Mr. Weiss was appointed by former President Donald Trump and left in place by the Biden administration to finish the investigation into Hunter Biden.

The prosecutor has offered to testify in front of Congress to address criticism of the inquiry.

The House of Representatives Oversight Committee, which is examining various allegations against Hunter Biden, has already heard testimony from a whistleblower who claimed the justice department had deliberately slow-walked the tax investigation.

Republican congressman and oversight panel member Tim Burchett told the BBC he is disgusted by that assertion.

“Why would you break the rules for a dirtbag like Hunter Biden?” said the Tennessee Republican. “I mean, he’s got all this money.

“He is just a despicable human being. And yet, this is the kind of guy that the Democrats want to cover for.”

Republicans have focused on a notorious laptop that Hunter Biden apparently abandoned in a computer repair shop in Delaware.

The contents of the computer have been used to try to prove bribery and corruption against the president’s son and to attempt to connect his father to illegal business dealings.

But Democrats say it is no coincidence that Republicans are attacking the justice system while Mr. Trump faces two criminal indictments and may soon learn of charges against him in two more cases.

Democratic strategist Ashley Etienne said politicians will still be talking about Hunter Biden’s laptop right up until next year’s presidential election.

She argued that Republicans were trying to create a “false equivalency” between the misdemeanors to which Hunter Biden wants to plead guilty and the crimes with which Donald Trump has been charged.

BBC

By Admin

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