Judge appears skeptical of Hunter Biden’s attempt to get tax charges dismissed

A federal judge appeared skeptical Wednesday of arguments from Hunter Biden’s lawyers that his felony tax indictment should be dismissed, potentially teeing up a trial this summer.

At a hearing in downtown Los Angeles, US District Judge Mark Scarsi said he would decide by April 17 on the motions to toss the case. The three-hour hearing grew contentious at times, with Hunter Biden’s lawyers trading barbs with special counsel David Weiss’ team, while Weiss looked on from the pews.

If Scarsi allows the case to proceed, that means President Joe Biden’s son would face two separate criminal trials in June, just as the 2024 campaign heats up. In addition to the California-based tax case, Weiss also indicted Hunter Biden in Delaware on gun charges. (He pleaded not guilty to all charges.)

The judge signaled Wednesday that he doesn’t agree with the defense’s arguments that the prosecution has been tainted by “outrageous” partisan misconduct, or that the sweeping immunity provisions in Hunter Biden’s failed plea deal last summer blocked Weiss from filing the tax indictment in December.

That deal offered immunity for many of the same tax issues that are included in the current indictment, which accuses Hunter Biden of repeatedly failing to file and pay his taxes on time and engaging in an illegal tax-evasion scheme by filing false tax returns and cooking the books on his company’s payroll.

A “natural reading” of the language in the 2023 deal suggested that, even if it was agreed to, the terms never kicked in because it was missing a signature from probation officials in Delaware, Scarsi said.

The judge also repeatedly poked holes in Hunter Biden lawyer Abbe Lowell’s theory that Weiss only filed the charges because he caved to pressure from former President Donald Trump and House Republicans.

“There doesn’t seem to be any evidence” that the public pressure campaign from prominent Republicans “influenced the prosecutions’ decisions, other than the pure timeline,” Scarsci said.

But Lowell urged Scarsi to “connect the dots” of how a proposed misdemeanor tax plea deal and “diversion” deal to resolve a gun charge escalated into two felony indictments — only after Trump railed against the supposed “sweetheart deal,” and GOP lawmakers gave a platform for two IRS agents who worked on the case to advocate for more charges.

“It’s a timeline,” Lowell conceded, “but it’s a juicy timeline.”

He added, “there is nothing regular with how this case was initiated and investigated,” and claimed that prosecutors caved to political pressure and partially boosted their probe on “Russian disinformation” from a discredited FBI informant.

Weiss’ team said Hunter Biden’s lawyers were resorting to an “attack-the-prosecutors” strategy because they “haven’t come within a mile” of the evidence needed to upend the case. Special counsel attorneys also accused Lowell of concocting a “revisionist history” and chafed when they were accused of doing Trump’s bidding.

Prosecutor Leo Wise said it was “insulting” to suggest that charging decisions were influenced by the IRS whistleblowers, whom he compared to “hyenas baying at the moon.” Prosecutor Derek Hines said it was “outrageous” to think “we would go write up an indictment” because Trump posted about Hunter Biden.

While the judge was mostly skeptical of the loftiest defense claims, he appeared more open to their arguments that some of the misdemeanor counts might be legally defective. For instance, Hunter Biden’s lawyers contend that the statute of limitations expired for the failure-to-pay tax offense from 2016.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

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