Misunderstood in Wilmington

Say this about Judge Maryellen Noreika. She has her guard up. She is on the lookout for dirty tricks. Query whether she harbors the thought that the Hunter Biden plea deal she has been asked to bless today is one.

The Daily Mail (Josh Boswell) and the New York Post (Samuel Chamberlain) have good narrative accounts of the strange doings in the federal district court clerk’s office in Wilmington yesterday. Let me borrow Chamberlain’s account here:

First son Hunter Biden’s legal team appeared to pull a dirty trick Tuesday to block the release of damning evidence ahead of his expected guilty plea to federal charges of tax evasion and weapons crimes.

The drama began in the morning when the House Ways and Means Committee filed an amicus brief to Delaware US District Judge Maryellen Noreika arguing that the 53-year-old had benefited from “political interference which calls into question the propriety of the investigation” into alleged crimes including money laundering, felony tax evasion and failure to register as a foreign agent.

What happened next was outlined in a letter sent to the judge Tuesday afternoon by the committee’s top lawyer, Theodore Kittila.

“[A]t approximately 1:30 p.m., we received word that our filing was removed from the docket,” Kittila said. “We promptly contacted the Clerk’s office, and we were advised that someone contacted the Court representing that they worked with my office [emphasis original] and that they were asking the Court to remove this from the docket. We immediately advised that this was inaccurate. The Clerk’s Office responded that we would need to re-file. We have done so now.”

Kittila included email exchanges with court officials and Hunter Biden’s attorneys in the fresh filing.

“Hi Ted, Following up on our recent telephone conversation, the woman who called was a Jessica Bengels,” confirmed court official Samantha Grimes. “… She said she worked with Theodore Kittila and it was important the document was removed immediately or they could file a motion to seal. I do deeply apologize for all the confusion on our part.”

Bengels is the director of litigation services at the New York-based law firm of Latham & Watkins, where Hunter Biden attorney Chris Clark was formerly a partner.

When Kittila confronted the first son’s legal team, Hunter’s attorneys tried to claim the filing contained confidential tax and identifying information, even though the whistleblower testimony has been public for more than a month.

The time stamps from the emails also indicated the request to take the document down was made after Kittila refused a request to file the testimony under seal.

“As far as I am aware, the managing attorney from Latham called the clerk’s office to note that personal tax information of the defendant had been filed in a non reacted [sic] manner and to inquire regarding having the information sealed, as we told you we would and as you said you understood,” Clark wrote. “As far as I am aware the clerk took the filing down on their own accord. Your attempts to publicly file my client’s personal financial information with no protection ls [sic] are improper, illegal and in violation of applicable rules … We will seek all appropriate sanctions in response to your actions.”

“You should probably take a step back from your statements,” Kittila warned. “The clerk’s office advised that it was represented to her that the request was being made by my firm. We will be advising Judge Noreika of this improper conduct.”

“I stand by all of my statements and I hope you have an affidavit from the clerk in support of yours,” Clark replied.

Judge Noreika entered an oral order directing — directing the Biden team — to “show cause as to why sanctions should not be considered for misrepresentations to the Court” by 9:00 p.m. last night. The text of the court’s order is accessible on the site formerly known as Twitter here.

Team Biden beat the deadline:

Shortly before 9 p.m., Bengels submitted an affidavit in which she blamed a miscommunication among the clerks for the removal of the Ways and Means filing.

“I am completely confident that I never indicated that I was calling from Mr. Kittila’s firm or that I worked with him in any way,” she said. “The only mention of his name was when [the clerk] had asked me if the filings had been entered by Mr. Kittila’s firm and I answered that I believed that to be the case.”

In a letter to the judge, Hunter’s lawyers said: “We have no idea how the misunderstanding occurred, but our understanding is there was no misrepresentation.

“We hope this letter and the attached declaration dispels any suggestion that undersigned counsel or our staff would ever intentionally misrepresent or mislead the Court with respect to any matter,” the defense team added.

Miranda Devine gave us a look at the original documents (including the docket entry) on the site formerly known as Twitter.

The Daily Mail story includes copies of Kittila’s correspondence to Biden’s counsel and to the court. It’s all a big misunderstanding and it all makes for a perfect preface to the dirty deal Judge Noreika has been asked to bless today.

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