Washington, Jul 26 (EFE).- Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty to tax charges on Wednesday after a judge surprisingly said she was not prepared to approve a plea deal reached between the president’s son and the Justice Department.
Judge Maryellen Noreika, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, questioned the validity of the plea deal struck last month, through which Biden was to have pleaded guilty to failing to pay his income tax on time in 2017 and 2018.
Under the terms of that agreement, he was to have avoided serving time in prison and instead be sentenced to probation.
Noreika said at Wednesday’s hearing in Federal District Court in Wilmington, Delaware, that it was particularly problematic that the plea deal would allow Hunter Biden, who is publicly known to have suffered from addiction problems for many years, to avoid charges for having lied about his drug use on a gun purchase background check.
She also wanted the deal to clarify that it does not provide Hunter Biden with blanket immunity from prosecution on charges that may result from future investigations.
With no assurances of broad immunity – particularly relating to his past foreign business dealings in China and Ukraine – the president’s son on Wednesday entered a not-guilty verdict on the tax charges for the time being.
The investigation of Hunter Biden has been overseen by US Attorney David Weiss, the top federal prosecutor in Delaware and a Trump appointee who was retained by the Biden administration to see the probe through to the end.
In her daily press conference, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre reiterated Wednesday that Hunter Biden does not hold any public office and that the investigation is a “personal matter.”
But Trump and other political rivals of the president have seized on Hunter Biden’s personal and legal problems to try to paint the Biden family as corrupt.
And when it was announced on June 20 that Hunter Biden had reached a deal with the Justice Department that would allow him to avoid prison time, the former president slammed it as proof that the Bidens are benefiting from a two-tiered justice system.
“The corrupt Biden DOJ just cleared up hundreds of years of criminal liability by giving Hunter Biden a mere ‘traffic ticket.’ Our system is BROKEN!” he wrote then on his Truth Social micro-blogging site.
Trump faces his own serious legal problems, including a 37-count federal criminal indictment for the alleged mishandling of highly sensitive classified documents.
Those charges include 31 counts of willful retention of national defense information, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. EFE