Judge seems skeptical of Hunter Biden’s request to dismiss tax charges

By Chris Kirkham and Andrew Goudsward

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A U.S. judge gave a skeptical reception on Wednesday to an attempt by President Joe Biden’s son Hunter to dismiss his criminal tax-evasion case on the grounds that he was selectively targeted for prosecution due to political pressure.

At a hearing in federal court in Los Angeles, U.S. District Judge Mark Scarsi asked whether Hunter Biden’s lawyers had any evidence that prosecutors had caved to pressure from Republicans, other than the fact that they filed charges after months of accusations by Republicans in Congress and former President Donald Trump that he had been treated leniently.

“Do you have any evidence other than the timeline?” Scarsi asked Hunter Biden’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell.

Lowell acknowledged that “it’s a timeline, but it’s a juicy timeline.”

Scarsi also voiced skepticism about Hunter Biden’s defense team’s argument that prosecutors had been pressured by two Internal Revenue Service agents who went public last year with information about his tax returns.

“How are they responsible for what’s in the indictment?” Scarsi asked.

“I can’t make the connection that that’s why that happened,” Lowell said, later adding that “it was those two agents that started the dominoes.”

Leo Wise, one of the prosecutors on the case, said it was “patently absurd” that the agents had influenced prosecutors.

Hunter Biden, 54, pleaded not guilty to failing to pay $1.4 million in taxes between 2016 and 2019, while spending millions of dollars on drugs, escorts, exotic cars and other big-ticket items. Lowell has said he paid back the money in full.

The trial is due to start in June, a few months before Americans vote in a November presidential election that looks set to be a close and deeply divisive contest between Joe Biden, himself the subject of an impeachment probe, and Donald Trump, who faces four criminal trials.

Hunter Biden, the first child of a sitting president to face criminal charges, also faces a separate criminal case in federal court in Delaware over his alleged purchase of a handgun while he was using illegal drugs. He has pleaded not guilty and made similar arguments to dismiss the charges in that case.

Special Counsel David Weiss, who brought both cases, has accused Hunter Biden’s legal team of spreading “conspiracy theories” about the prosecution. 

Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings, which are detailed in the tax indictment, are at the center of an impeachment investigation by Republicans in the House of Representatives into whether Joe Biden profited from his son’s activities. 

The probe has so far turned up no evidence that the president personally benefited. 

Hunter Biden’s defense team has also argued that the case is barred by an earlier plea deal the president’s son struck with prosecutors.

The deal, which collapsed under questioning from a federal judge last year, called for Biden to plead guilty to misdemeanor tax charges. Prosecutors have said it never took effect.

(Reporting by Chris Kirkham in Los Angeles and Andrew Goudsward in Washington; Editing by Costas Pitas and Stephen Coates)


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