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Editor’s note: A version of this column first appeared on author Jonathan Turley’s blog.
The second indictment of Hunter Biden brought nine new criminal charges and a host of problems for both him and his father, President Biden. The indictment shatters past claims and denials related to the massive influence-peddling operation by the Bidens. However, it is also a case study of the perils of legal gluttony.
Five months ago, exasperated Biden defense counsel Chris Clark snapped at federal prosecutors to “just rip it up” after a plea bargain hit a snag in a hearing before Judge Maryellen Noreika. They did and, for the first time, Hunter could be facing a real chance of jail time.
The six misdemeanor charges and three felonies carry a potential sentence of 17 years for alleged tax evasion and filing a false return. It could have been worse. The Justice Department inexplicably allowed the statute of limitations to run on the most serious allegations involving payments from years going back to 2016. Those are mentioned in the narrative of the indictment but not charged as separate offenses.
None of this would have happened if Judge Noreika did not ask a very simple question about the plea agreement and a sweeping immunity provision buried in its language. Many judges would have likely flagged through the agreement and given Hunter the sweetest of sweetheart deals.
Noreika noticed that the deal seemed to give Hunter immunity for any crime going forward and asked the prosecutor if he had ever seen any agreement like this one. He honestly answered “no.”
It was later learned that there was a push within the Justice Department to have no charges at all brought against Hunter in an investigation that was heavily laden with special treatment, according to IRS whistleblowers.
The investigation by the House has shown how Hunter and his counsel allowed their appetite for special treatment to turn into a raging disorder. The Justice Department reportedly gave Hunter a “heads up” about planned searches and interviews, scuttling those efforts. Even though the Justice Department had an agreement to “toll the statute” to prevent the early charges from expiring, the Special Counsel just let them die without any rational reason.
In this “all-you-can-eat” legal smorgasbord, it is little surprise that the Biden team would demand an unprecedented immunity deal and just two misdemeanors after years of tax evasion covering millions from insider trading.
After all, Attorney General Merrick Garland had refused the calls of many of us to appoint a Special Counsel to look into the corruption scandal. The scandal was capped off legally and the media was running cover for Hunter.
The laptop was falsely denounced as Russian disinformation and the media largely dismissed influence-peddling claims. Whenever new allegations surfaced, the president and the media would literally run to the nearest ice cream shop to discuss the president’s favorite flavors.
In other words, why ask for a sweeping immunity deal? The answer was why not.
That all came crashing down when Judge Noreika just cleared her throat in court.
As the prosecutors struggled to explain the absurd immunity provision, the Biden legal team was obviously shocked at the notion that they might have to exercise portion control. After all, the president himself has declared “no one f—- with a Biden.”
That is when they told the prosecutors to “just rip it up.” Those are the four most dangerous words that a criminal defendant could utter in a hearing on a plea deal. They could have immediately narrowed the immunity deal and even added a few misdemeanors to salvage the deal. Instead, they shredded their client.
What followed was performative and frankly a tad pathetic. To the thrill of some in the media, the Biden team promised to get aggressive with witnesses and critics. They started to make demands as if they still controlled events, including saying that they would only comply with a congressional subpoena on their own terms.
It won’t work. A bill has come due. While Garland is still protecting President Biden from a Special Counsel, Hunter Biden is going to have to face these alleged crimes and corruption. Even the media is now admitting that he was influence peddling, though maintaining a final line of defense for the president. The last defense is that it was corrupt, but merely illusory because it did not actually influence Joe Biden.
In other words, Hunter is rapidly becoming expendable.
The lesson for lawyers should be lasting: Even if you can secure a massive sweetheart deal, you may want to exercise a modicum of portion control. That “all-you-can-eat” option may not be the best course for your client. The Justice Department was clearly willing to give Hunter anything that he demanded, but maybe you need to demand less.
Sometimes it is better to go for the more limited à la carte option. Your client will consume less, but he may be able to get up from the table. In other words, you need to be careful what you ask for… You just might get it.