Hunter Biden's plea deal with the Justice Department on two misdemeanor tax charges collapsed on Wednesday, as the presiding federal judge expressed concerns about the constitutionality of a pre-trial diversion agreement. This agreement would have allowed Hunter Biden to evade prison time in relation to a felony firearms possession charge.
Judge Maryellen Noreika declined to accept the plea deal, prompting Hunter Biden to enter a plea of not guilty at the conclusion of the hearing. Noreika requested that both parties submit briefs outlining the legal structure of the plea agreement.
Furthermore, prosecutors acknowledged in the Delaware federal court that Biden remains the subject of an ongoing investigation. This information was revealed during the proceedings, as reported by Fox News.
Under the initial plea deal, Biden was expected to plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax crimes, thus enabling him to evade incarceration. This arrangement required the approval of Noreika, who was appointed by former President Trump and has made political donations to both major parties.
In addition to the tax charges, Biden was also charged with felony possession of a firearm while being addicted to illegal drugs. This offense carries a maximum sentence of 10 years. As part of the plea deal, Biden agreed to participate in a pre-trial diversion program, which grants defendants the opportunity to avoid convictions or imprisonment.
During the hearing, Judge Maryellen Noreika sought clarification from prosecutors regarding the possible inclusion of a Foreign Agents Registration Act charge in the deal. Prosecutors stated that such a charge would not be included.
Calls to reject the agreement have been made by conservatives, who highlight growing evidence of government interference in the investigation. While the Justice Department planned to recommend two years of probation for Hunter Biden as part of the negotiated plea deal, the conditions of his release would have required abstinence from alcohol and illegal substances, along with possible random drug tests administered by court officials.
Although congressional Republicans have raised concerns about alleged government interference favoring the Biden family, Noreika agreed with prosecutors and Hunter Biden's attorneys that she lacked the authority to initiate a review of the five-year investigation if problems were identified.
According to the Justice Department, Biden earned more than $1.5 million annually in both 2017 and 2018, and yet failed to pay income tax for either year, resulting in a tax liability exceeding $100,000.
Each tax charge carries a maximum penalty of 12 months of imprisonment. Had the initial plea deal been accepted, it would have marked the first instance in U.S. history where a sitting president's son pleaded guilty to a federal crime.