Hunter Biden was indicted on nine tax charges in California as a special counsel investigation into the business dealings of President Joe Biden’s son intensifies against the backdrop of the 2024 election.
The new charges filed Thursday — three felonies and six misdemeanors — are in addition to federal firearms charges in Delaware alleging Hunter Biden broke laws against drug users having guns in 2018. They come after the implosion of a plea deal over the summer that would have spared him jail time, putting the case on track to a possible trial as his father campaigns for reelection.
Hunter Biden “spent millions of dollars on an extravagant lifestyle rather than paying his tax bills,” special counsel David Weiss said in a statement. The charges are centered on at least $1.4 million in taxes Hunter Biden owed during between 2016 and 2019, a period where he has acknowledged struggling with addiction. The back taxes have since been paid.
If convicted, Hunter Biden, 53, could a maximum of 17 years in prison. The special counsel probe remains open, Weiss said.
In a fiery response, defense attorney Abbe Lowell accused Weiss of “bowing to Republican pressure” in the case.
“Based on the facts and the law, if Hunter’s last name was anything other than Biden, the charges in Delaware, and now California, would not have been brought,” Lowell said in a statement.
The White House declined to comment on Thursday’s indictment, referring questions to the Justice Department or Hunter Biden’s personal representatives.
The charging documents filed in California, where he lives, detail spending on drugs, strippers, luxury hotels and exotic cars, “in short, everything but his taxes,” prosecutor Leo Wise wrote.
The indictment comes as congressional Republicans pursue an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, claiming he was engaged in an influence-peddling scheme with his son. The House is expected to vote next week on formally authorizing the inquiry.
No evidence has emerged so far to prove that Joe Biden, in his current or previous office, abused his role or accepted bribes, though questions have arisen about the ethics surrounding the Biden family’s international business.
The separate, long-running criminal investigation into Hunter Biden had been expected to wind down with a plea deal where he would have gotten two years’ probation after pleading guilty to misdemeanor tax charges and avoided prosecution on the gun charge if he stayed out of trouble.
The agreement was pilloried as a “sweetheart deal” by Republicans, including former President Donald Trump. Trump is facing his own criminal cases, including charges that he plotted to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which he lost to Biden, a Democrat.
Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, gave credit for the new charges Thursday to two IRS investigators who testified before Congress that the Justice Department had mishandled and “slow walked” the investigation into the president’s son. Justice officials have denied those allegations.
The two IRS employees, Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler, said the indictment was “a complete vindication of our thorough investigation.”
The new charges against Hunter Biden include filing a false return and tax evasion felonies, as well as misdemeanor failure to file and failure to pay.
The defense signaled that it plans to fight the new charges, likely at least in part relying on immunity provisions from the original plea deal. Defense attorneys have argued those remain in force since that part of the agreement was signed by a prosecutor before the deal was scrapped.
Opening statements began Monday in the criminal trial of actor Jonathan Majors, who was charged last spring for allegedly assaulting his then-girlfriend during an argument.
Majors did not speak as he strode into a Manhattan courthouse seeking to clear his name following an arrest in March that has effectively stalled his fast-rising career.
The six-person jury is expected to hear opposing narratives from 34-year-old Majors and his accuser, Grace Jabbari, a British dancer, about their confrontation in the back of a car.
Prosecutors said Jabbari was riding in a car with Majors in late March when she grabbed the actor’s phone out of his hand after seeing a text message, presumably sent by another woman, that said: “Wish I was kissing you right now.”
When Majors tried to snatch the phone back, he allegedly pulled her finger, twisted her arm behind her back and hit her in the face. After the pair got out out of the vehicle, he threw her back inside, Jabbari said.
Attorneys for Majors have maintained that Jabbari was the aggressor in the confrontation. They have suggested that prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office are targeting Majors because he is Black.
The arrest came weeks after the release of “Creed III,” a break-out role for Majors. He has also starred in the Marvel TV series “Loki” and the film “Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania,” and was awaiting the release of another star vehicle, “Magazine Dreams,” which is now in limbo.
He could be sentenced to up to a year in jail if convicted.
In a historic ruling, Panama’s Supreme Court this week declared that legislation granting a Canadian copper mine a 20-year concession was unconstitutional, a decision celebrated by thousands of Panamanians activists who had argued the project would damage a forested coastal area and threaten water supplies.
The mine, which will now close, has been an important economic engine for the country. But it also triggered massive protests that paralyzed the Central American nation for over a month, mobilizing a broad swath of Panamanian society, including Indigenous communities, who said the mine was destroying key ecosystems they depend on.
In the unanimous decision Tuesday, the high court highlighted those environmental and human rights concerns, and ruled the contract violated 25 articles of Panama’s constitution. Those include the right to live in a pollution-free environment, the obligation of the state to protect the health of minors and its commitment to promote the economic and political engagement of Indigenous and rural communities.
The ruling would lead to the closure of Minera Panama, the local subsidiary of Canada’s First Quantum Minerals and the largest open-pit copper mine in Central America, according to jurists and environmental activists.
The court said the government should no longer recognize the existence of the mine’s concession and Panama’s President Laurentino Cortizo said “the transition process for an orderly and safe closure of the mine will begin.”
Analysts say it appears highly unlikely that Panama’s government and the mining company will pursue a new agreement based on the resounding rejection by Panamanians.
“There are sectors in the country that would like a new contract, but the population itself does not want more open-pit mining, the message was clear,” said Rolando Gordón, dean of the economics faculty at the state-run University of Panama. “What remains now is to reach an agreement to close the mine.”
Analysts say the mining company is free to pursue international arbitration to seek compensation for the closure based on commercial treaties signed between Panama and Canada. Before the ruling, the company said it had the right to take steps to protect its investment.
With the ruling, the Panamanian government and the mining company are headed for arbitration at the World Bank’s international center for arbitration of investment disputes, in Washington, said Rodrigo Noriega, a Panamanian jurist.
Marta Cornejo, one of the plaintiffs, said “we are not afraid of any arbitration claim” and that they are “capable of proving that the corrupt tried to sell our nation and that a transnational company went ahead, knowing that it violated all constitutional norms.”
In a statement after the verdict, the mining company said it had “operated consistently with transparency and strict adherence to Panamanian legislation.” It emphasized that the contract was the result of “a long and transparent negotiation process, with the objective of promoting mutual economic benefits, guaranteeing the protection of the environment.”
Cortizo, who had defended the contract arguing it would keep 9,387 direct jobs, more than what the mine reports, said that the closing of the mine must take place in a “responsible and participative” manner due to the impact it would have.
The company has said the mine generates 40,000 jobs, including 7,000 direct jobs, and that it contributes the equivalent of 5% of Panama’s GDP.
The court verdict and the eventual closure of the mine prompted more protests, this time by mine workers.
Thailand’s Cabinet on Tuesday approved an amendment to its civil code to allow same-sex marriage, with an expectation for the draft to be submitted to Parliament next month.
Karom Polpornklang, a deputy government spokesperson, said the amendment to the Civil and Commercial Code will change the words “men and women” and “husband and wife” to “individuals” and “marriage partners” for same-sex couples to be able to receive the same rights that heterosexual couples receive.
He said the law would guarantee the right to form a family in a relationship between same-sex couples, adding that the next step will be an amendment to the pension fund law to recognize same-sex couples as well.
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin told reporters that the draft law is expected to be proposed to Parliament on Dec. 12. If it becomes law after Parliament’s approval and King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s endorsement, Thailand will be the third place in Asia, after Taiwan and Nepal, to allow same-sex marriage.
While famous for being an LGBTQ+ friendly country, Thailand has struggled to pass a marriage equality law. Parliament last year debated several legal amendments to allow either marriage equality or civil unions, which do not grant same-sex couples all the same rights as heterosexual couples. All of the bills failed to be passed before the parliamentary session of the previous government ended.
The new government led by the Pheu Thai party, which took office in August, revived the attempt to pass a marriage equality bill, which it had promised during its election campaign.