Chessboard(s): Hunter Biden’s Replies

I’m going to write two posts on Hunter Biden’s reply motions in his gun case. Here are all the relevant filings:

Motions to dismiss

Information collection motions

This post will address the point I made here: Abbe Lowell is managing eight different legal challenges for Hunter Biden that, with the exception of the Patrick Byrne defamation suit, all interrelate. He seems to be managing them to optimize timing and information collection.

This totally ugly illustration captures how I’ve begun to think of these (anyone remember Howard Johnson motels?).

The most immediate threat against Hunter Biden is the stuff in the middle: the threat of imprisonment in the (so far) twin prosecutions of him; I’ve included a column to allow for the possibility that David Weiss is still considering more. But that threat exists within — indeed, Lowell argues in his selective prosecution motion, was demanded — as part of the larger GOP impeachment and election effort. Lowell has responded to those threats with lawsuits — a countersuit against John Paul Mac Isaac, hacking lawsuits against Garrett Ziegler and Rudy Giuliani (all three are marked in blue), and a gross negligence lawsuit against the IRS (in green) — that will or may provide a second way of collecting information, outside the prosecutions.

For example, countersuing JPMI provided a way to get the data the blind computer repairman had shared with the FBI and the rest of the world, as well as to subpoena Apple (data obtained in discovery may parallel that subpoena). The judge in that case has stayed some nuisance subpoenas from JPMI targeting Hunter’s family, and dueling motions for summary judgement are all briefed for a hearing. If Lowell succeeds with his argument that JPMI violated Delaware law by snooping through a laptop the computer repairman claims was dropped off by Hunter Biden before sharing it with the FBI and the GOP, it would destabilize Weiss’ prosecutions (both of which, given the December warrant, build off it) and impeachment (in which the GOP has been relying on a hard drive they were withholding from Democrats). Not only did that countersuit make lawsuits against Rudy Giuliani and Garrett Ziegler possible, but if Lowell prevails, then those lawsuits will become a lot more precarious for the men who destroyed Hunter’s life if those suits survive a joint motion to dismiss hearing — largely based on venue and the applicability of Lowell’s hacking theory — in March.

That’s important background to the new motion to compel filed yesterday, which follows on two other efforts to gather information — a motion to subpoena Trump and others, and a motion for discovery. Among other things, that motion asks David Weiss to describe specifically where in the Apple data his team obtained the texts cited in his response to Hunter’s selective prosecution claim. As I alluded to yesterday, not only do the July 2020 warrants almost certainly build off the laptop in a way that Weiss seems to be trying to obscure, but the way in which and timing that devices were embedded within the laptop may pose some interesting legal problems for the government, particularly given that the warrants aspire to obtain attribution information that (thus far at least) Weiss’ team seems blissfully unconcerned with. While that same motion suggests it is seeking expert reports about the gun, if Weiss plans to rely on evidence obtained directly or indirectly from the laptop, he’s going to have to call the guy who, JPMI claims, was trying to boot it up before obtaining a warrant on December 9, 2019, as well as the “computer guy” who didn’t bother to check when files were added to the laptop for 10 months after receiving it, precisely the kind of attribution information that would be critical to actually admitting any of it as evidence.

Relatedly, Lowell has also promised a motion to suppress the laptop evidence.

The search warrant on December 4, 2023, which post-dates the firearm indictment by almost three months, is the first time in the course of this five-year investigation that DOJ obtained a warrant to search the alleged laptop (and iCloud account and backup data) for evidence of federal firearms violations. The prosecution then used that warrant to purportedly review and seize, for the first time, text messages, photos, and other evidence in support of its felony charges, several of which the prosecution cited in its pleadings on January 16, 2024. (See DE 68 at 8–9.) Moreover, that warrant contained testimony (in support of finding probable cause) about the firearm obtained from a witness in a grand jury empaneled in the Central District of California in November 2023 after this indictment had already been brought. Accordingly, the issue raised—as a result of the prosecution’s recent filings—is one to explore at the evidentiary hearing Mr. Biden requested (DE 64) and a motion to suppress which will be filed promptly.

Partly, this motion to suppress will be a complaint about Weiss’ post-indictment use of a California grand jury in this case (a complaint that, by itself, likely wouldn’t work). But there are other parts of even what I can see in the warrant that make it ripe for challenge. At the very least, defending a motion to suppress will force the government to commit to certain technical claims that, thus far at least, they appear to be dodging.

The motion to compel also asks Judge Noreika to get a commitment from Special Counsel that they have provided all Brady evidence. As it is, Weiss’ team is adhering to a far stingier discovery standard than Jack Smith is and Robert Mueller and the post-Mueller Mike Flynn challenge did. But there are things out there — the most notable of which is the Perfect Phone call between Donald Trump and Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the most important of which are the threats that David Weiss and his team received before he reneged on a plea deal — that Lowell likely can argue are solidly Brady which, from the sounds of things, Weiss has not provided. Lowell has, thus far, not called out Derek Hines for claiming it would take a Hollywood plot to explain how the political pressure ginned up by a guy who has elicited dangerous threats against every prosecutor and judge deemed to be adversarial to him might have led David Weiss to renege on a deal. Hines’ silence about those threats basically amounts to license, given by an AUSA, for stochastic terrorists to target all his AUSA colleagues. I’ve been puzzled that Lowell has never mentioned these threats — except in passing in the selective prosecution reply — but wonder whether Lowell is simply leaving it there for Weiss to fail to mention with the repercussions that will have on the case.

Litigating a motion to suppress and a motion to compel will also delay any trial in this case, assuming none of these motions to dismiss work. Those are not Lowell’s only bid for delay. In the reply challenging that the gun charges against him are unconstitutional, Lowell responded to Weiss’ optimism that SCOTUS will review other gun cases by bidding to stay the entire gun trial: “this Court should await that guidance from the Supreme Court before allowing this case to proceed to trial.” That’s probably not going to work, but Lowell’s Bruen-related challenge will ensure that Weiss can’t close up shop until the constitutional question is decided. More interestingly, given the tight schedule Judge Mark Scarsi has set in the Los Angeles case, with a trial scheduled for June, delays in Delaware (assuming the case is not dismissed) could have the effect of putting the tax case before the gun case.

As I’ll show in a post on the selective prosecution claim, such a claim may work better in the tax case than the gun one.

Potential delay may be one point of Lowell’s challenge to both the manner of David Weiss’ appointment as Special Counsel and his funding for it. In his reply, Lowell claims that Weiss has responded to the challenge by arguing that Weiss would have been able to prosecute Hunter as US Attorney for Delaware, so there’s no legal problem with doing so as Special Counsel.

In response to both the lack of authorization and lack of appropriation issues, the Special Counsel claims the Court should let him go ahead and prosecute this case in the wrong way because he believes he could find a right way to prosecute the case if he wanted to. Opp. at 20. With respect to his lack of authorization to bring the case as Special Counsel, Mr. Weiss claims that he could have brought the case in his capacity as U.S. Attorney even though he did not. Opp. at 22– 23 (conceding that he signed the indictment as “Special Counsel,” rather than bringing it in his capacity as U.S. Attorney). Perhaps Mr. Weiss could resign as U.S. Attorney and seek to be reappointed as Special Counsel, consistent with DOJ regulations, and then seek to indict Mr. Biden again. Perhaps he could find a way to prosecute this case with the costs and expenses of gathering new evidence that was not obtained in violation of the Appropriations Clause as well (see supra at 15). But such issues are premature as he has done none of those things. It is telling that Mr. Weiss’s last argument is that, if all else fails, he can put back on his U.S. Attorney hat, change the nameplate on his door, and start again

But that’s the point of the appropriations clause aspect of the challenge; Lowell argues that Weiss would have to go back and collect new evidence (testing the pouch the gun was found in for cocaine residue, getting new grand jury testimony, and getting a warrant to use laptop content for the gun crimes) without violating the appropriations clause. I don’t like this motion nor do I think it will work. But by making an appropriations clause challenge, Lowell may be able to enjoin certain things — like issuing a final report, replete as John Durham’s was with fabrications — until any appeals are exhausted.

Which brings me to the claim that the diversion agreement must be honored and the related discovery motion. Those are the arguments I’ve always thought stood the best chance (though the briefing on it has devolved into a squabble about language). In the body of the latter argument, Lowell notes that Weiss’ claims he was always considering charging Hunter doesn’t defeat Hunter’s claims, because he ultimately decided not to, before he changed his mind for no apparent reason.

The prosecution’s response to Mr. Biden’s motion to dismiss for selective and vindictive prosecution further confirms the need for discovery should the Court not dismiss the indictment outright. The prosecution claims that its reasons for charging this case were based on “overwhelming evidence” (DE 68 at 2, 24) it obtained in 2019 and 2021, and on the unexplained “deterrent effect” (DE 68 at 33, 40–41) that it claims this prosecution of Mr. Biden serves. And the prosecution suggests “it had been considering” charging Mr. Biden “long before plea negotiations began.” (DE 68 at 17, 40, 48.) But this explanation is entirely pretextual because— even with all these factors in play—the prosecution still determined that the appropriate resolution was a diversion on the gun charge and a probationary sentence on two tax misdemeanors. The prosecution even signed a Diversion Agreement and Plea Agreement to that effect, and openly advocated for the Court to adopt the Plea Agreement at the July 26, 2023 hearing. What the prosecution has not explained is why it deemed this agreed upon resolution of its issues with Mr. Biden appropriate on July 26, 2023, but chose to abandon that approach and charge Mr. Biden with multiple gun and tax felonies afterward. It is undisputed that extremist Republicans criticized the prosecution’s deal heavily, and since then, House Republicans have declared that pressure is what caused the prosecution to reverse course. The fact that the prosecution’s explanation for its charging decision does not explain why it chose to change its proposed resolution of the dispute does nothing to show those House Republicans are wrong to claim causing the prosecution to reverse course.

Then a completely predictable footnote notes that the efforts to collect new evidence after indicting raise more questions about Weiss’ claims than they answer.

1 The prosecution’s opposition briefs reveal some new evidentiary issues (e.g., seizing electronic evidence for the gun charges for the first time pursuant to a December 4, 2023 warrant; using a grand jury in California in connection with the tax case to elicit evidence for already-indicted gun charges in Delaware; seeking a search warrant in December 2023 to search for evidence in support of its charges three months after having charged; testing a leather pouch for cocaine residue in October 2023 that it had in its possession for five years; denying there was Probation’s approval for the diversion agreement) in addition to those raised in Mr. Biden’s motions to dismiss themselves (e.g., how a Delaware agreement for a diverted gun charge and two tax misdemeanors turned into multiple felonies in two jurisdictions following massive political pressure to do just that). Based on the prosecution’s admissions made only recently in its filings, Mr. Biden will expeditiously file a motion to suppress improperly gathered evidence.

This is what I pointed out: Admitting that you never sent the gun to the lab until weeks after indicting the case is a confession that you were never really going to prosecute it until Jim Jordan demanded you do so.

And the excuse offered in the filing — that an FBI agent first saw cocaine residue when taking a picture of the weapon — is debunked by the fact that Weiss received photos of the weapon in the case file he has had for years.

The prosecution produced a Delaware state police case file, which includes a summary of an interview Mr. Biden gave police in October 2018 and other information about the purchase, discard, and recovery of the firearm, as well as evidence photos from its case file. [my emphasis]

They didn’t need a new photo. They have photos! They needed evidence they didn’t bother to seek in the over five years since the gun was seized.

But all that comes against the background of three arguments about how and why the plea deal fell apart, something that Weiss has very assiduously avoided. In the diversion reply, Lowell argues that judicial estoppel prohibits Weiss from claiming the diversion agreement is not valid because Leo Wise stood before Judge Noreika and made assurances about the degree to which the diversion would protect Hunter’s rights. In the selective prosecution reply, Lowell reminds Judge Noreika that her concerns with the plea deal were not that it was not draconian enough, but rather, whether Hunter would be protected to the extent he understood he would be.

The Court did not accept the Plea Agreement that day, but the Court was clear: “I’m not saying I’m not going to reject the plea, I’m not saying I’m going to accept the Plea Agreement. I need more information.” (7/26/23 Tr. at 109.) The Court expressed no concern with whether the parties had struck a fair bargain, rather the concern the Court expressed to Mr. Biden was with “making sure that your plea gets you what you think it gets.” (Id. at 108.) The Court wanted assurances that the immunity provision in the Diversion Agreement that would have the Court decide whether Mr. Biden had breached his obligations under the Diversion and Plea Agreements before the prosecution could charge Mr. Biden with conduct that would otherwise be immunized was constitutional. (Id. at 105–06.) In other words, the Court’s concern was with making sure that Mr. Biden received the benefit of the bargain that he struck, not with changing that bargain to be more punitive against Mr. Biden.

At the end of that filing, Lowell describes how David Weiss sat in the back of Judge Noreika’s courtroom, watching Leo Wise advocate for measures (negotiated by Lesley Wolf before Wise was brought in) to protect Hunter.

On July 26, 2023, Mr. Weiss sat right behind his prosecution team when they urged this Court to accept those agreements.

As of today, the motion for a subpoena for Trump has been fully briefed for 50 days, but Judge Noreika has not addressed it.

Indeed, the only thing we’ve heard from Judge Noreika since she granted Lowell’s request for a delay to do all this briefing on October 19 was her order granting my request to unseal the Apple warrants in this case (And thanks to Judge Noreika and her courtroom deputy and the clerks who scrambled to make it possible for doing so). That is, it’s not clear yet what she makes of these competing arguments.

But it is absolutely the case that Leo Wise stood before her and made certain representations about the plea deal. And my impression at least accords with Lowell’s: that her concerns arose from protecting Hunter Biden’s rights, not granting Jim Jordan the head of the President’s son.

Judge Noreika could just rule that the diversion agreement is binding (which as noted in my ugly table, will have interesting repercussions for the LA case). She could order an evidentiary hearing, granting the long-briefed motion for subpoenas.

Based on reports, in the initial appearance in the LA case, Judge Scarsi implied he’d be cautious against granting discovery about deliberations (presumably including the recommendation Los Angeles US Attorney Martin Estrada’s top prosecutors made about problems with the case). But he sounded more amenable to discovery about other topics — possibly the threats that Derek Hines treats as a Hollywood plot, including threats targeting Estrada.

In three weeks, Abbe Lowell will file most of these same motions before Scarsi, and if any work — especially the selective prosecution one — it might make the Delaware one unsustaintable as well.

Again, I’m not saying these will work. Selective prosecution has been made all but impossible to argue, for example.

But I am saying that Lowell is increasing his chances for success.

87 replies
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  2. Peterr says:

    For example, countersuing JPMI provided a way to get the data the blind computer repairman had shared with the FBI and the rest of the world, as well as to subpoena Apple (data obtained in discovery may parallel that subpoena).

    So what you are saying here — and throughout the post — is that parallel construction is not just something for the prosecution to do. Lowell is looking for information and evidence *here* that lets him improve his legal posture over *there* (and *there* and *there* and *there* and . . .).

    And it seems to be working, as the weak points in one case are linked to the weak points in the next and the next, only adding to the sense of the only thing pushing these cases forward is a desire to find SOMETHING on a Biden – i.e., selective prosecution.

    Welcome to the world of parallel discovery.

  3. Sussex Trafalgar says:

    “Judge Noreika could just rule that the diversion agreement is binding (which as noted in my ugly table, will have interesting repercussions for the LA case). She could order an evidentiary hearing, granting the long-briefed motion for subpoenas.”

    If Noreika did rule that the diversion agreement is binding as you stated above, then why didn’t she rule it that way last August 2023 when she had the opportunity? The diversion agreement was just as binding last August as it is today, tomorrow or someday in the future.

    Was she truly interested in protecting HB’s rights last August? Or was she interested in prolonging the case for at least since more months (August 2023-February/March 2024) to pacify the House Republicans?

    • Rugger_9 says:

      I’m not sure the connection between Comer’s Clown Committee (et al) and Judge Noreika can be made. Do you have a link?

      I don’t think the judge would have said in court what she said without a way to pressure her.

      • Troutwaxer says:

        The Jordan/Comer types probably imagined they had a great case before the DOJ saw which way the wind was blowing. Why pressure someone if you think you’re winning?

    • John Paul Jones says:

      Here’s a link to the transcript;
      If you go through, you’ll see that Lowell’s account in his reply (cited above by Marcy) is substantially accurate.

      Judge Noreika was concerned about her role in a non-standard agreement, and that led her to question whether it was actually going to work to achieve the outcome which both Wise and Hunter’s lawyer Clark said it would. On further questioning, it turned out that Wise was holding back: that the government could indeed bring, for example, FARA charges after the deal was in place. Thus, the deal blew up because the government reneged on it.

      My impression of Noreika was that she was scrupulous in going through the deal, not quite line by line, but almost, and asking some sharp questions. Again, just my impression, but I got the sense that she arrived in court that day with serious misgivings about the deal, and she kept digging into it to try and settle those misgivings. Honestly, I kind of admire her for doing that.

      • Shadowalker says:

        It’s a carrot and stick approach. The plea deal was the carrot, when that fell apart he switched to the stick. I’m surprised that Weiss didn’t try to supersede a drug charge based solely on the residue.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          “Fell apart?” The passive voice is doing a lot of work there. The prosecution had already abandoned the plea deal when it arrived at that hearing.

          • Shadowalker says:

            The judge could have rubber stamped it. They were in support of the diversion agreement even after the judge raised constitutional questions, and it wasn’t till they had to admit in court that they still had open investigations that Lowell cancelled the deal.

      • JVOJVOJVO says:

        I am in the process of settling a civil action where the Plaintiff wants my client to agree to an injunction and proposed language. I objected to the draft language – it’s as clear as mud – and I noted that while the parties can agree to whatever they want, it was my view that no decent judge would sign the proposed injunction language. Judge’s have their own discretion and view points to protect the proper administration of justice. fwiw

  4. Rugger_9 says:

    One of the real gems in Lowell’s planning is how he is leveraging the SCO against itself, because as EW had laid out well almost every move SC Weiss and his team could make creates problems elsewhere. Whether it’s contradiction of other evidence, prosecutorial misconduct, exposure of inconvenient facts or some other slime oozing out from under his prosecution rock is somewhat irrelevant.

    I would also opine that this trouble SC Weiss finds himself in should explain some of why AG Garland and SC Smith took their time to get ducks in a row before charging and filing.

    • 0Alexander Platt0 says:

      The trouble SC Weiss finds himself in is because he’s trying to manufacture a bullshit case for corrupt political purposes. Garland and Smith were not at risk for this.

      • Rugger_9 says:

        True that the cases are not identical or even close, but Weiss like Durham before him didn’t do his homework and tried to cram through the process to boot.

        Thus, the comparison.

        • 0Alexander Platt0 says:

          I certainly agree that Weiss echoes Durham. I’m just pushing back on the comparisons with Smith and Garland. Truth and righteousness aren’t everything, but they sure make a difference.

  5. Ginevra diBenci says:

    Should Lowell succeed in delaying (but not derailing) Weiss’s prosecutions, would the DOJ’s calculation in regards to elections come into play? I think we agree here that this effort was mounted, by Jim Jordan et. al. at Trump’s behest, for the sole purpose of affecting election results. Could Lowell frustrate that purpose by insisting that all of these very real (IMO) issues get decided first?

    And should Hunter not be prosecuted before the election, what would happen then?

    • Shadowalker says:

      I have a suspicion these cases will evaporate after the election. Who does the evaporating is the only question. Though they’ll continue smear Hunter so long as they can get a return on their investment. Sort of how they kept going after the Clintons.

      • Ginevra diBenci says:

        My guess as well, Shadowalker. The entire motive of these prosecutions seems to be the political one. Lowell’s legal jujitsu moves (including Hunter voluntarily sitting for that nonsense deposition by the House committee) will confound those doing the politicizing in interesting ways. Unfortunately, it won’t shut them up.

    • JVOJVOJVO says:

      Depends upon who wins the election – I’m pretty sure Billy Barr wouldn’t accept being AG again – but I certainly wouldn’t bet against it. ffs

  6. Naomi Schiff says:

    Thank you for all this clarification! Minor grammar or sense quibble: maybe “make” doesn’t belong in this sentence, after “Which brings me to. . . “: “Lowell notes that Weiss’ claims he was always considering charging Hunter make doesn’t defeat Hunter’s claims, because he ultimately decided not to, before he changed his mind for no apparent reason.”

  7. Badger Robert says:

    Did the FBI and hence the Special Counsel obtain the gun charge evidence through a method they don’t want to disclose to the 2nd Amendment advocates?
    Right now Lowell is working on the court to make discretionary rulings in his favor. But it seems if there ever was a trial he will attempt to have an expert say the claimed chain of custody is false. The laptop contents were constructed, not recovered. And in the context explained by Ms. Wheeler, that seems to be a winning argument,

    • Ebenezer Scrooge says:

      I can assure you, the Second Amendment advocates will be just as eager to create trouble for Weiss as they were in the Philandro Castile case.

      Castile, if you don’t remember, was a driver stopped by the cops. He had a legal gun, and immediately told the cops that he had one, so they wouldn’t take things amiss. They panicked anyway, and shot Castile dead. The NRA did not emit a peep, because driving while armed and black is a capital crime.

      There is no such thing as a Second Amendment advocate. There is only masculinism, and masculinism doesn’t care about Hunter Biden.

  8. Bruce Olsen says:

    It’s interesting to see this kind of strategy play out (in a much simpler way) in E. Jean Carroll’s case, where her attorneys showed the jury the deposition where Trump claimed he had $400 million in cash on hand. Whoopsie!

    I hope it’s as effective in Biden’s favor as it was in Carroll’s.

    • Peterr says:

      Notice the difference in legal strategies and legal representation between Donald Trump and Hunter Biden. Both face multiple charges in different jurisdictions, yet the two legal approaches could not be more different.

      Abbe Lowell sits atop Hunter’s legal team, and is masterfully using rulings and discovery in one setting to improve his client’s legal position in the others. Trump, OTOH, has a more scattered legal team in each setting, and does not seem to be able to move forward in one place without setting himself back in the others.

      • ExRacerX says:

        Sticking with the chessboard analogy, Trump’s current legal situation reflects all the ill-advised moves he & his lawyers have made earlier in the “game.” It will become increasingly difficult to move one piece without losing another—or to put the opponent in Check.

      • boatgeek says:

        I’m going to go out on a limb* here and suggest that Hunter Biden is following the advice of his legal team. From all appearances, it’s the other way ’round on the Trump side. That appears to have an impact on how the proceedings go.

        * Not very far at all…

  9. PeteT0323 says:

    anyone remember Howard Johnson motels?

    YES! HoJo. Fond memories of my dad taking little me there for a hot open faced turkey sandwich with gravy and a thick chocolate shake. Simpler times.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Remember the sandwich, not the chocolate shake. I think EW was also saying that her chart’s colors (and maybe the layout) reminded her of the typical HoJo.

      • JVOJVOJVO says:

        HoJo colors are great but if EW used other color combos, it would easily also be a PizzaHut, a McD, a BK, etc.
        Reading EW always makes me recall The Family Circus cartoons.
        Marci is masterful in highlighting the dashed lines running through these threads.

        • Rayne says:

          Remember the little ghost-like character Not Me in Family Circus? I didn’t remember his girlfriend Ida Know or their cohort Nobody.

          Seems like one or more of these characters are responsible for the lousy chain of custody on evidence and the handling of key filings related to the mythic “Hunter Biden’s Laptop.”

          • zeke di leo says:

            OT but this takes me back to a simpler time when I would rage-read Family Circus and Nancy to see which one would I would find more annoying. It was almost always Family Circus but it was sometimes closer than you’d think. I know everyone needed to know this. Carry on.

            [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the SAME username AND EMAIL ADDRESS each time you comment so that community members get to know you. You used a different email address on this comment than in the past; I have changed it this once. We don’t even ask that you use a working/valid email, only that it matches each time. Future mismatches may result in comments not clearing for publication. Thanks. /~Rayne]

    • John Paul Jones says:

      Not a motel story, but … .

      Years ago, in Montréal, my girlfriend at the time worked in an A&W on St Catherine’s street. It was winter, and she finished her shift after dark. So we would go for a sandwich (and hot chocolate) at the Howard Johnson’s restaurant further down the street. They had a counter you could sit at, rather than going for a booth. Nice place, and open late.

      As to the colours, both Denny’s and Howard Johnson’s in the -70s used colours that would look okay under stern artificial lights because they were open long after daylight had fled.

    • boatgeek says:

      Fun fact: TV chef Jacques Pepin was fairly senior at HoJo in the 60’s, developing recipes that were (a) tasty and (b) easy to produce on an industrial scale for a reasonable price.

    • Skillethead says:

      HoJo! I had a theory on their clam chowder: Since you could never actually find clams in the clam chowder, my theory was that there was only one clam in the entire chain and they passed it around to make the chowder.

      • earlyriser says:

        I used to marvel at that color combination. I had a theory the founder had two kids and asked them each what was their favorite color, then put them together. Highly recognizable though.

  10. Savage Librarian says:

    Marcy, thanks to you, now we can leap into February with more confidence. I appreciate that Judge Noreika seems to be protecting Hunter Biden’s rights.

    My hope is that the court can separate itself from political influence. I’m particularly interested in seeing if the court will rule whether or not the diversion agreement is binding. An evidentiary hearing relative to the subpoenas would be great to see, too.

    Thanks for helping me understand all the technicalities!

    What do I remember about my childhood visits to Howard Johnson’s: the hush puppies and the peppermint ice cream.

  11. Rayne says:

    LOL Howard Johnson’s — now that’s a place I haven’t thought of in ages. The one here around the corner from my folks’ house used to be the place to go after high school events if the local greasy spoon was too busy. HoJo’s scared off the denizens who liked it dark, greasy, and cheap because it was too bright, white and chrome everywhere.

    I used to split an order of fried onion rings with a friend and chase it with a hot fudge sundae.

    Sorry, Marcy — HoJo’s orange (#F47A3F) is more red, less green, and more blue than the color you used in your graphic (#F19F38). HoJo’s turquoise (#00BFF3) is less red, less green than yours in the graphic(#74FDFD). Close but not quite. The contrast in the graphic is very effective, though, attention-getting distinction.

    • Naomi Schiff says:

      Miscellaneous HOJO thought: Howard Johnson’s was, indirectly, the beneficiary of the Prohibition-era ice cream and soda fountain craze.

    • emptywheel says:

      1) In early high school I lived in Friendly’s territory. In driving age high school I lived in Denny’s territory. But I knew HoJo from before that, not least bc my Aunt paid her way through teaching college working there.

      2) I’m dealing with the colors readily available on Google Sheets. Ick! I was hoping for an oranger orange. Thought abt moving software to get better colors.

      • Rayne says:

        LOL I lived in Bill Knapp’s territory off and on, too fussy for high schoolers. More likely to hit the A&W drive-through or the local greasy spoon which had the best pies and cherry cokes, driving age or younger. One thing I miss is Stuckey’s — I thought of their turquoise-colored roofs when you mentioned HoJo’s. There used to be one on I-75 before the bridge but now it’s defunct.

        In re: colors — Agree, ick! using Google Sheets and wanting custom colors. Might have opted for a simple graphics program, whatever iOS offers comparable to MS Paint and then fill with custom color. Google Search now offers a custom color picking tool if you search for “color picker.” W3C Schools offers a simple tutorial on colors at — note the color picker in righthand navigation bar.

        • harpie says:

          Rayne, just FYI: the most recent post showing on the front page right now is the latest Trash Talk. [The newer ones are still scrolling at the top.]

          • Matt___B says:

            Yes, I see this too. The newest articles are missing from the top of the main page. Navigated here through the rotating
            banner at the very top…

          • Rayne says:

            We’re aware of it and are looking into it. Please bear with us, it may take a bit to figure out how to resolve this. :-)

          • Savage Librarian says:

            Yes, something weird is going on with the home page. In order to see all the posts, you have to scroll to the bottom of the home page and then click on the Posts button (or All Posts button?) at the bottom of the page. Then it’s normal and consecutive again.

            • Winterspring Summerfall says:

              Thanks for that SL, that works for me also, clicking on “Posts” at the bottom of the homepage reloads the page to list the latest topics at the top.

              Sharing this in hopes that it may help whoever is troubleshooting the problem.

        • Eschscholzia says:

          I’ll see your Stuckey’s (for pecan pralines) and raise you 5 Harvey Houses, “Tee Pee”, “Continental Divide”, and “The Thing: Mystery of the Desert”. Huge yellow billboards for hundreds of miles each along US 80 later I-10. None nearly as racist as “Pedro Sez” on I-95, even if Tee Pee was probably on Apache ancestral lands and mostly sold imitation Hopi & Pueblo trinkets.

        • Legonaut says:

          Mmmm… Bill Knapp’s… mmmm….

          It was the “fanciest” restaurant my parents took us to (70s-80s), usually for special occasions. A real sit-down place with tablecloths and menus! Otherwise, it was McD’s or (occasionally) Ponderosa — and no, I could never count Ponderosa’s trays and order-number-tent-thingies as “fancy”.

          Loved their bean soup.

    • punaise says:

      Good riddance to Sambo’s restaurants. That never sat well.

      Sambo’s, the family restaurant chain that once had more than 1,100 units in 47 states, is down to one remaining location. And, it will finally ditch its name, a name steeped in racist stereotypes, the owners announced late last week.

      The restaurant’s name was a portmanteau of its founders’ names—Sam Battistone Sr. and Newell Bohnett, who started the concept in 1957. But it is also a racist caricature of black people, frequently employed as a defense for slavery and segregation.

      • Honeybee says:

        Punaise, you are so right about the racial resonance. Still, it was the only all night coffee shop in my small college town. I remember sleeping from 7 to midnight and then studying Zoology 2 from midnight till dawn at the local branch. Endless coffee.

        • punaise says:

          True, that.

          TMI for this forum. but I could tell a story about sitting in our hometown Sambo’s fairly late one night in early high school years. A buddy and I were still coming down from an ill-advised acid trip that somehow ended up with us getting busted by the cops on the periphery of the football game we were allegedly attending. Our less than credible story is that we blamed it on Southern Comfort. We were released to his parents’ custody, and they took us there to “sober up”.

        • Old Rapier says:

          I had a late shift in DeKalb IL, a college town, and many nights I would hear and see cop cars going 80 down the main thoroughfare at 2 AM with no lights or sirens. I couldn’t figure it out till I was across town one night and saw all the cop cars at Sambo’s.

          • theartistvvv says:

            Probably a little later in time (early -mid 80’s), but I bartended at McCabes. The only place to eat after closing was the gyros place a cuppla blocks toward Annie Glidden.

      • gruntfuttock says:

        I was read the book when I was a kid in the 70s but, living in Scotland, I had no idea there were restaurants. WT-very-F!?!!

        Please let it die it’s natural death.

  12. Matt___B says:

    There was a HoJo’s in North Hollywood that actually hired jazz musicians to play gigs at the restaurant…I think this was ’80s-’90s.

    Also, HoJo’s was immortalized in Frank Zappa’s mini-rock opera Billy the Mountain with these spoken lyrics:

    Ethel, want to get a cup of coffee?

    (chorus in background): Howard Johnson’s! Howard Johnson’s! Howard Johnsons!

    Ahhh! There’s a HOWARD JOHNSON’S! Wanna eat some CLAMS?

  13. TREPping says:

    If memory serves, HoJo’s play a role in the Vonnegut short story, “Welcome to the Monkey House.” I remember them on vacations, but I also grew up in Friendly’s territory, where the main challenger was Newport Creamery.

  14. earthworm says:

    HoJo’s was invariably identified with southern New England, the part of the US with the highest per capita consumption of ice cream, and > the highest per capita consumption of coffee ice cream, nationally.
    along with Autocrat syrup, another gem of New England was Danny Schecter, “your news dissector,”(RIP). this site, although with origins in another part of the country, is a worthy successor.
    thank you, everyone here at EW, for making the inscrutable plain and for piercing the miasma and murkiness that envelops us.

    • LaMissy! says:

      Danny Schecter!
      We New Englanders eat more ice-cream in the winter months than most of the country does in the summer.

    • earthworm says:

      i just checked — it is Schechter, (not Schecter) my apologies to his memory.
      i only ever heard it, not read it.

    • JAFO_NAL says:

      Yes, my first job in high school in central Connecticut was in a HoJo’s more than 50 years ago. The first raise of my employment history was from $0.90 to $1.10/hr. (gasoline was about $0.25/gallon). Tricky Dick was in office. His dirty tricks pale in comparison now. Clam strips, anyone?

      • benfdcmd says:

        I was about to post “Clam strips” but I see that it’s no longer necessary. (Assuming that it ever was.)

  15. Ham Gravy says:

    EW thank you for the excellent research and analysis. Invaluable reading.

    My memories of Howard Johnson’s are twofold. On summer vacations, our family would sometimes stay at Howard Johnson motels. Dining at the restaurant on property, my mother would invariably order the “Summer Delight” which was a salad featuring canned peaches and pears topped with cottage cheese. Later, when I attended college, there was a Howard Johnson’s restaurant across from campus available to accommodate late night cramming students. We called it HoJo’s. Excellent coffee and ice cream but no Summer Delight.

  16. SunZoomSpark says:

    There was a Hojo’s in Southfield right near the Channel 7 broadcast house. My high school buddies were with me at HJ and we saw Bill Bonds the channel 7 “Action News” anchor picking up some carryout. I asked him ” are you Jack LeGoff (the channel 2 Anchor).
    Bill flipped us the bird.
    Mission Accomplished!
    Thank you Hojo!

  17. John Paul Jones says:

    A bit OT, but the home page has gone hinky. The latest stories show up on the top banner, and you can click through, but they’re no longer actually on the page. This makes it hard to see what’s new. The last story I see that’s actually on the page, is the football one from, I guess, Sunday? Just wondering if it’s a bug or a (redesign) feature, and wondering too whether, if a new post appears, some of those currently hidden will make it onto the page, or whether they will vanish into the vast and backward abysm of time.

    Noticed this was happening a couple hours ago, and just checked back to see if it persisting, and yup, it is.

  18. RJames0723 says:

    I don’t remember a thread going so of topic as this one. The post is about a man’s liberty being threatened by the power of the state.

  19. Greg Hunter says:

    I have a copy of an old HoJo’s menu somewhere in my possession.  

    I honeymooned at the HoJos on Hallandale Beach Blvd. due to its proximity to Gulfstream Park and Joe Sonken’s Gold Coast Restaurant.  My MIL swore she rode the elevator with Jim Morrison around the time of his arrest for indecent exposure. 

    It, like my marriage, was demolished long ago.

    Caesar salad made table side was a treat……

  20. bmaz says:

    I wonder if The Artist VVV knows that a charlatan like Rayne is choking off further conversation between us?

    • Rayne says:

      I’m going to warn you not to make false claims. You’ve already been told in response to your email why your last two comments didn’t clear.

      Community members who want to contact you directly can do so via your social media accounts — a link to your Twitter account is in your profile at the About page.

    • DizziNes says:

      At the risk of writing OT and where my ‘standing’ is limited …
      IANAL. I’ve read EW for over 4 years – commenting infrequently when I had something to add. There’ve been many times when folks here kept me grounded, and cautiously optimistic, about our country/ government/ judicial system.
      I did/ do/ miss BMAZ. His opinion is one that I am consistently interested in reading. He often has an alternate/ unique/ take which makes this site more valuable – in my opinion. His discourse can be salty. He suffers no fools. He can get a bee in his bonnet. He’s also been supportive and instructional to readers and commenters – many, many times. I do give him a hat tip on Fulton Co. A high 5? => No.
      I am not privy to all what’s gone down between the mods, but I sincerely hope it can be worked out. What you‘all do here is valuable and important. Please.

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