What it was like watching Hunter Biden’s plea deal unravel: The Press Room
7, Nov 2022
What it was like watching Hunter Biden’s plea deal unravel: The Press Room

Welcome to The Press Room, a weekly roundup of the major stories and happenings in Delaware politics.

We’re in the “off-season” as the Legislature is in the midst of its six-month break. But that doesn’t mean news isn’t happening. We’ll be experimenting with The Press Room (and its format) in the coming weeks.

This week’s edition focuses on the shocking twist of the Hunter Biden plea deal, Eugene Young entering Delaware’s congressional race and the state’s attempt to have Amazon expand its presence.

As always, send story tips, feedback, ideas or gossip to me at [email protected].

Behind the scenes of covering Hunter Biden’s plea hearing gone wrong

When Hunter Biden, the president’s son, walked into the courtroom, my colleague Xerxes Wilson and I were sitting in the second row, just behind members of his legal team.

We were surrounded by a couple dozen other reporters, some of whom had (rumor has it) paid University of Delaware students to wait outside in the early morning to guarantee a spot in the courtroom. The federal courthouse is small and now forbids any technology inside.

So, it meant that in order to know what was going on, you had to be in the courthouse. And if we left the courtroom to update our editors, we could not return. Instead, we would relocate to the courthouse’s overflow room, where it was being livestreamed.

READ: Here’s how Hunter Biden’s expected plea deal fell apart, leading to his not guilty plea

Before the judge entered the courtroom that morning, we watched Biden shake hands with federal prosecutors, including U.S. Attorney David Weiss. He has spent the past five years leading the criminal investigation into Biden’s finances.

And then, we saw Biden and the prosecutors sign a document that appeared to be the proposed plea deal. Hours later, it all fell apart.

President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden arrives for a court appearance Wednesday, July 26, 2023, in Wilmington.

President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden arrives for a court appearance Wednesday, July 26, 2023, in Wilmington.

It became clear that the two sides had different interpretations of the agreement – and that Judge Maryellen Noreika had significant concerns. At times, she described it as potentially “unconstitutional” and lacking “legal precedent.”

Many, including some on Biden’s legal team, initially thought the entire hearing would take about an hour. The president’s son was even expected to make a statement afterward. It would have been one of the rare times he would directly address the press.

Ultimately, the judge did not sign off on the plea deal, forcing Biden to plead not guilty to the two federal tax misdemeanors. She ordered both defense attorneys and federal prosecutors to submit briefs explaining the legal legitimacy of the plea deal. She also told them to clarify language that could grant Biden immunity from possible future prosecution relating to his foreign investments and consulting work, which has led him to earn millions of dollars.

Throughout the hourslong hearing, moments grew tense. There were multiple recesses, in which attorneys were heard disagreeing. At one point, the judge told the two sides to figure out their differences in a short break.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Wise pointed to a paper on the prosecution’s desk telling Biden’s primary attorney, Christopher Clark, “We can’t get around this.”

“We will rip it up then,” Clark replied.

By the end of the hearing, I watched from the overflow room. When Biden pleaded not guilty, a shocking turn from his intention to plead guilty that day, some reporters gasped.

Eugene Young jumps into Delaware congressional race

Eugene Young, director of the Delaware State Housing Authority, entered the race for Delaware’s at-large U.S. congressional seat last week.

If elected, Young would be the first Black man to represent Delaware in Washington. Many have viewed him as a rising political star, following his narrow defeat in the 2016 Wilmington mayoral Democratic primary.

READ: Eugene Young, state housing director, announces bid for Delaware’s congressional seat

“I have a deep, abiding sense of commitment to the state and the people of this state because the state’s done so much for me,” Young said in an interview. “So for me, it’s about how I serve those men and women and families that make up this wonderful state.”

Eugene Young, director of the Delaware State Housing Authority, speaks at the grand opening of an affordable housing complex, the Quaker Arts apartment complex, in Wilmington on Wednesday, March 8, 2023.

Eugene Young, director of the Delaware State Housing Authority, speaks at the grand opening of an affordable housing complex, the Quaker Arts apartment complex, in Wilmington on Wednesday, March 8, 2023.

He joins state Sen. Sarah McBride and state Treasurer Colleen Davis, both of whom announced this month. Young, in a campaign email, said he raised $100,000 in the first 24 hours of his campaign.

McBride, also seen as a rising star, previously said she raised $414,000 in the first five days of her campaign. Davis’ campaign has not released any donation information.

Delaware developers continue to try to lure Amazon to expand presence

My colleague Brandon Holveck had an intriguing scoop last week: The state and real estate developer are trying to convince Amazon to use a warehouse near New Castle.

Exterior view of Amazon's warehouse Tuesday, June 21, 2022, at Delaware Logistics Park near New Castle.

Exterior view of Amazon’s warehouse Tuesday, June 21, 2022, at Delaware Logistics Park near New Castle.

Construction on this site, south of the Wilmington Airport near Route 40 and Route 273, began more than a year ago. At a state transportation infrastructure meeting last week, a representative for Stoltz Real Estate Partners revealed it is targeting Amazon.

READ: Backed with state money, a developer is trying to attract Amazon to new warehouse

“We are engaged with Amazon,” Stoltz’s Mike Hagan said. “We’d love to see something happen with Amazon. It may not happen.”

The e-commerce giant already has a mega presence in Delaware, with it being the state’s fourth-largest employer. Its presence expanded significantly in the First State during the height of the pandemic.

This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Hunter Biden’s plea deal unraveled in Delaware federal courtroom