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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Edward Helmore

Hunter Biden lawyers say prosecutors confused photo of sawdust for cocaine

Hunter Biden in Washington DC on 10 January.
Hunter Biden in Washington DC on 10 January. Photograph: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images

Lawyers for Hunter Biden have claimed that a picture government prosecutors are using to support a tax fraud case against him shows neatly arranged lines of sawdust from a carpentry shop – and not cocaine as the government contends.

Joe Biden’s son is facing tax evasion charges for failing to disclose millions in foreign income and a charge for failing to disclose he was a drug addict on gun licensing forms. He claims that use of the picture shows that prosecutors’ evidence against him should not be taken at face value.

The potential mix-up “sounds more like a storyline from one of the 1980’s Police Academy comedies than what should be expected in a high-profile prosecution”, Hunter Biden’s attorney Abbe Lowell wrote in a court filing.

Lowell said that the government was “flat-out wrong” to claim that Biden took the photograph or that it showed cocaine.

Instead, Lowell said, “this is actually a photo of sawdust from an expert carpenter and it was sent to Mr Biden, not vice versa”. The photo was from a master carpenter and “coke addict” that Biden’s psychiatrist had sent to his patient to “convey that Mr Biden, too, could overcome any addiction”.

The apparent sawdust image is one of hundreds of photographs from the same laptop that Biden had left in a repair shop. Its contents were made public shortly before the 2020 election, flooding the public realm with images of Biden taking crack cocaine and playing with guns and in compromising situations with sex workers.

Biden’s defense lawyers argue that the tax charges should be dismissed, months after a plea deal on the tax and weapons charges that gave Biden blanket immunity from future prosecution was thrown out by a judge in Delaware.

Biden changed his plea to not guilty. He is also resisting efforts by House Republicans to impeach his father. Lawmakers pushing the impeachment want Hunter Biden to testify about payments he received from foreign sources, including the Ukraine energy company Burisma, and what his father knew about his business dealings.

The investigation of Biden, 52, and Republicans’ appetite to impeach Joe Biden have been further complicated by the indictment last week of Alexander Smirnov, an FBI informant charged with feeding the bureau false information about Hunter Biden and his father during the 2020 presidential campaign, which Smirnov now claims was fed to him by the Russians.

The government claims in an indictment that Smirnov, 43, falsely told the FBI that Burisma officials paid the Bidens $5m each in 2015 or 2016.

“It now seems clear that the Smirnov allegations infected this case,” because the special counsel was investigating Smirnov’s allegations when the plea negotiations over gun and tax charges against Hunter Biden broke down.

“Having taken Mr Smirnov’s bait of grand, sensational charges, the diversion agreement that had just been entered into and plea agreement that was on the verge of being finalized suddenly became inconvenient for the prosecution, and it reversed course and repudiated those agreements,” the filing said.

“Our motions expose the special counsel has gone to extreme lengths to bring charges against Mr Biden that would not have been filed against anyone else,” Lowell, Biden’s lawyer, said in a statement. “It is time to hold the special counsel accountable and dismiss these improper charges.”

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