The judge overseeing a Wednesday hearing for Hunter Biden’s plea deal threatened his lawyers Tuesday night with sanctions after a member of their firm allegedly “misrepresented her identity” while asking the Clerk’s Office to remove an amicus filing by a Republican representative.
U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Delaware Maryellen Noreika wrote in an order Tuesday that Jessica Bengals, a staff member of over 18 years at the firm representing Hunter Biden, represented to the Clerk’s Office that she worked with Theodore Kittila, the lawyer for House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith. Smith submitted an amicus brief Tuesday asking the judge to consider whistleblower testimony that shows Hunter Biden “appears to have benefited from political interference,” which Bengals attempted to “improperly convince” the Clerk’s Office to remove from the docket because it contained sensitive “taxpayer and social security information,” according to the order.
In a signed affidavit, Bengals denied misrepresenting her identity or firm affiliation to deceive the court, stating she called from her Latham & Watkins phone number that displays the caller ID “LATHAM.” Bengals said her prior involvement with the case has been limited to assisting attorneys with e-filings and performing basic docket research.
Latham & Watkins Partner Matthew S. Salerno wrote in a Tuesday night letter to the judge that the matter is “an unfortunate and unintentional miscommunication between a staff member at our firm and employees of the Court.”
“We can only speculate how and when the misunderstanding occurred,” he wrote.
Smith’s amicus brief highlighted the testimony of IRS whistleblowers Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler, who told the committee last week the IRS retaliated against them for raising concerns about the DOJ’s investigation, which Shapley previously said they were “slow-walking.”
“The situation here is not that the Justice Department exercised charging or plea negotiation discretion, but the presence of credible allegations that the investigation, charging decisions, and plea negotiations were tainted by improper conduct at various levels of the government,” Smith’s brief notes.
Hunter Biden pleaded guilty to two tax misdemeanor charges in June and entered into a probation agreement for one felony gun charge.
Salerno did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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