US President Joe Biden’s son was expected to plead guilty as part of deal, but judge asks lawyers to talk about it more.
US President Joe Biden’s son Hunter’s plea deal on two tax charges has fallen apart after the United States federal judge hearing his case expressed concern over a related agreement on a more serious gun possession charge.
The outcome of Wednesday’s hearing leaves open, at least temporarily, the years-long investigation into Hunter Biden’s business dealings.
He had been charged with two misdemeanour tax crimes of failure to pay more than $100,000 in taxes from more than $1.5m in income in both 2017 and 2018, and he made an agreement with prosecutors, who were planning to recommend two years of probation.
Last month, Hunter Biden was 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 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 deal, the case would be wiped from his record. If not, the agreement would be withdrawn. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
US District Court Judge Maryellen Noreika, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, said on Wednesday that she was concerned about the language in the diversion agreement and suggested the lawyers get back together to discuss it.
“I think having you guys talk more makes sense,” she said.
The agreement, announced last month, came after a years-long Department of Justice investigation into the taxes and foreign business dealings of the Democratic president’s second son, who has acknowledged struggling with addiction following the 2015 death of his brother, Beau Biden.
While it legally would have cleared the air for Hunter Biden and averted a trial that would have generated weeks or months of distracting headlines, the politics remain as messy as ever.
Republicans have insisted he got a sweetheart deal and accused the Department of Justice, which is pressing ahead with investigations into Trump, the Republican 2024 presidential primary frontrunner, of double standards.
Trump is already facing a state criminal case in New York and a federal indictment in Florida.
But last week, a target letter was sent to Trump from special counsel Jack Smith that suggests the former president may soon be indicted on new federal charges, this time involving his struggle to cling to power after his 2020 election loss to Joe Biden.
Republicans claimed favouritism, with the president’s son getting off easy while Trump has been unfairly castigated.
For his part, President Biden has said very little publicly, except to note, “I’m very proud of my son.”