Hunter Biden has been the focus of journalistic, criminal, and political investigations for years as a result of questionable overseas business dealings and other alleged misconduct. Earlier this week, he apparently planned to put an end to his legal limbo by (1) pleading guilty in federal court to two misdemeanor counts of failure to pay taxes on over $1.5 million in income, and (2) entering into a two-year diversion agreement that would potentially result in his nonprosecution for a felony charge of possessing a firearm while being a drug user. The plea agreement also contained promises by the government not to prosecute Biden for certain other conduct and to recommend probation for the tax offenses. Although the prosecution was under the supervision of a Trump-appointed United States Attorney, critics saw the agreement as a sweetheart deal tainted by political interference. The Heritage Foundation and at least one member of Congress submitted filings to the court asking the judge not to accept the plea. And on Wednesday, Judge Maryellen Noreika did just that, expressing concern about the scope of the nonprosecution agreement and how Biden’s compliance with the deferral would be determined. The parties are apparently regrouping and attempting to reach a new agreement that the judge will accept. Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress are keen to hold hearings on the whole mess. Reuters has the basics here and CNN has some pertinent documents here. Keep reading for more news.
Speaking of famous people in court . . . Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg was fined about $240 this week after a court found that she disobeyed police while blocking access to an oil facility during a protest. According to the AP, “Thunberg . . . admitted to the facts but denied guilt, saying the fight against the fossil fuel industry was a form of self-defense due to the existential and global threat of the climate crisis.” She later added that “We cannot save the world by playing by the rules.”
More charges for President Trump. The AP summarizes here: “In an updated indictment handed down Thursday, prosecutors allege that Trump asked a staffer to delete camera footage at his Florida estate in an effort to obstruct the federal investigation into his possession of classified documents. The indictment includes new counts of obstruction and willful retention of national defense information.” Still no word on any charges that may follow the target letter recently issued to the former president in connection with the January 6 storming of the US Capitol.
Judge in Parkland shooter case reprimanded by state supreme court. The AP reports here that Elizabeth Scherer, the judge who presided over the capital trial of Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz, has been publicly reprimanded by the Florida Supreme Court. The court essentially upheld the findings of the state’s Judicial Qualification Commission, which determined that Scherer “’unduly chastised’ lead public defender Melisa McNeill and her team, wrongly accused one Cruz attorney of threatening her child, and improperly embraced members of the prosecution in the courtroom after the trial’s conclusion.” Scherer recently stepped down from the bench. She did not contest that she violated the rules of conduct and stipulated to the reprimand.
WRAL focuses on the use of state vehicles by DAC leadership. The story is here, and the subtitle conveys the gist: “State employees are supposed to reimburse the state if they take an official vehicle home. Several Department of Adult Corrections leaders don’t, despite long commutes.” The Department argues that the leaders are exempt from the reimbursement requirement because the vehicles are “operated for emergency response purposes.” It sounds like the leaders have not frequently been called to respond to emergency incidents, and the Department is further reviewing its policy and how it is applied.
AI making up cases again? Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, this post notes a Texas case in which a lawyer submitted a brief citing three nonexistent cases. The court speculated that the problem arose from asking an AI system to write the brief. Come on, lazy AI system! Fabricating cases is too obvious. If you’re ever going to put human lawyers out of work, you need to learn how to cite real cases while tendentiously overstating their pertinence to the facts at hand.
The IRS won’t be knocking on your door to collect unpaid taxes. At least not without an appointment, in most instances. CNBC has this story noting the change in policy: “The IRS on Monday ended its controversial practice of unannounced visits to homes or businesses from agency revenue officers for most taxpayers. Part of a broader IRS overhaul, the policy change aims to lessen public confusion and improve safety. . . . [An IRS official stated that] ‘Knocking on someone’s door today is a different scenario than it was 10 or 15 years ago, and there have been significant reports from IRS employees where they have felt unsafe.’”
Is that a putter in your pants? Finally, a story on the lighter side. Earlier this month, two English golfers were caught on a surveillance camera stuffing putters in their pants and walking out of a pro shop. Golf WRX has the story, and the video, here. Turns out that having a couple of golf clubs in your trousers makes it hard to walk with a natural gait. Local authorities have solved the caper, but the story offers no word on whether the putters have been offered for sale again. If so, perhaps a discount would be in order.