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Hunter Biden Is Never Going to Prison

This is a long way of saying that imposing a prison sentence on Hunter Biden would not be an appropriate solution.

Hunter Biden via YouTube screenshot.
Hunter Biden via YouTube screenshot.

Judge Maryellen Noreika of the Federal District Court in Wilmington, Delaware shocked the political world Wedneday when she denied the plea deal between Hunter Biden and the Justice Department over Biden’s tax and gun charges.

Noreika’s decision has reignited the debate over whether Biden’s plea deal was fair, or whether it was a lenient arrangement evidencing preferential treatment of the president’s son.

Now, the question looms as largely as ever: what would an appropriate punishment for Hunter Biden look like?

I have a few thoughts.

Forget About Prison for Hunter Biden

As one of the more prominent legal proceedings in years, the resolution in the Hunter Biden case isn’t just about Hunter Biden but about the U.S. criminal justice system at large.

And in the U.S. criminal justice system, there is a rampant over-reliance on incarceration. Mass incarceration is real – in part, ironically, because of Joe Biden’s 1994 Crime Bill – and regrettable. Prison is an expensive burden on the taxpayer, that often yields limited rehabilitative results.

Accordingly, America needs to reconceptualize what prison is used for. Prison should not be considered a catch-all punishment for criminal offenders. Sending someone to prison because they broke the law is not an affordable or practical answer.

Rather, prison should be re-conceptualized as a place where we send people who we do not trust to mix with the general population. Think murderers, rapists, arsonists, chronic vandals – people who, if allowed to roam freely, would make us left safe, or who would degrade our quality of life.

Prison is not a solution, however, for the guy who lied on his gun ownership paperwork, who failed to pay his taxes, or who was chronically addicted to an illicit or controlled substance.

As a taxpayer, do you really want to pay room and board for someone because they failed to pay their taxes? I don’t.

This is a long way of saying that imposing a prison sentence on Hunter Biden would not be an appropriate solution.

Forget about broad immunity

Although Biden does not deserve to be incarcerated he does deserve to be punished – for offenses already investigated, for offenses being investigated, and for offenses to be investigated. This is why I share Judge Noreika’s primary concerns with the proposed plea deal: the grant of “broad immunity from prosecution, in perpetuity, for a range of matters scrutinized by the Justice Department.”

Broad immunity? What does that mean exactly?

Judge Noreika, focusing her questions on the paragraph within the plea deal that proposed broad immunity, quickly discovered that Biden’s legal team and the DOJ prosecutors had different understandings of how the paragraph would be interpreted. Biden’s team, naturally, had an expansive view of the language, stating that the immunity “indemnified [Biden] not merely for the tax and gun offenses uncovered during the inquiry, but for other possible offenses stemming from his lucrative consulting deals.” 

The DOJ meanwhile defined the immunity in much narrower terms, stating that Biden’s immunity was “limited to offenses uncovered during their investigation of his tax returns dating back to 2014, and his illegal purchase of a firearm in 2018, when he was a heavy drug user.”

I won’t speak to the language of the deal, or to whose interpretation of the language was more reasonable. But I will speak to which interpretation I would endorse in principle – and that would be the DOJ’s. Granting Hunter Biden broad immunity against charges resulting from ongoing and future investigations sounds blatantly preferential. Biden should be held accountable like anyone else, regardless of who his father happens to be.

A Plea Deal is Appropriate

And while I don’t think a grant of broad immunity covering all current and future investigations is appropriate, I do believe some sort of plea deal makes sense for practical reasons. Trials are expensive and administratively burdensome. Trials should be avoided when possible. The DOJ’s offer of a plea deal is not necessarily reflective of preferential treatment – depending on the terms of the deal – but a simple commonsense solution.

In sum, here are the parameters of what an appropriate resolution in the Hunter Biden tax/gun charges investigation could look like.

No draconian or heavy-handed punishments (i.e. prison time).

No broad immunity for ongoing and future investigations.

An expedient resolution (i.e. plea deal) if possible.

Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor and opinion writer at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.

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Written By

Harrison Kass is a Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison has degrees from Lake Forest College, the University of Oregon School of Law, and New York University’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. He lives in Oregon and regularly listens to Dokken.