Leo Wise Has a Sex Worker [and Other False Statement] Problem

It took a while to get a transcript for the motions hearing in Hunter Biden’s Los Angeles case. Now that I’ve read it, I want to revisit two claims Leo Wise made in the same blustery attack on Hunter Biden’s motion to dismiss for outrageous conduct.

His attack was a response to two things that Abbe Lowell said. First, Lowell claimed that the details included in the speaking indictment against Hunter Biden were precisely the details that Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler raised in their testimony and public comments, including lifestyle, luxury, drugs, escorts, and sex clubs.

Look in the indictment that you have on your desk.

Each one of the charges is exactly what those two agents said should happen.

What else did they say? They went on and they said, “And this is what he did as opposed to paying his taxes.” And they talked about all of his lifestyle, luxury, drugs, escorts, sex clubs, whatever they put in.

What happened? It’s exactly the phraseology that the special counsel put in, which is abhorrent. It doesn’t happen in pure government tax cases, where they go on for 36 pages, but that’s exactly what the agents demanded and said. So Walters is not just —

The other was that the IRS agents’ testimony set off a series of dominoes in May.

So what we know today is they did the causation. It was those two agents that started the domines. That’s what happened here.

They started in May to complain about what they say is done wrong in the case. The next thing, they’re on the airwaves. The next thing is members of Congress put them in their hearing. The next thing, they reveal what they were — said in the hearing, and release the transcripts wholesale, in the midst of those famous negotiations that were happening.

The next thing that happens is members of Congress complain about the June agreement. The next thing that happens is — while they’re still out there complaining, you know, in May, when they were removed from the case, they didn’t go home. They didn’t go work on some other case, or if they did, they had plenty of time to go on their publicity tour.

So then the next thing that happens is Chairman Smith of the Ways and Means Committee tries to intervene to squirrel the deal in Delaware. All that starts with these agents.

Here’s Wise’s response:

Well, they said, “Oh, they started the dominoes.” What dominoes? Where is the proof of any of that?

Other than insulting us, where is the proof that anything these two agents — who I couldn’t have picked out of a lineup — had anything to do with our decision-making?

The idea that every American knows this story, that’s absurd. I mean, the myopia of people that live in Washington, to think that everyone in America cares what Gary Shapley and — I don’t even know what Ziegler’s first name is — what Ziegler says. That’s not proof.

You know, he talks about, “Well, did the — where did the prosecutors get the concept of a speaking indictment?”

I’ve been a white-collar prosecutor for 18 years. I’ve been writing speaking indictments the entire time. We didn’t have to get the idea from Gary Shapley saying, “Oh, Biden — Biden was involved with drugs and escorts.”

Biden wrote about that in his book. I mean, we could read about it in the book. America can read about it in the book. You don’t have to watch some obscure pundit on some podcast I’ve never heard of talk about it

So, I mean, this is as weak, as factless as the vindictive selective motion was. This one is even worse, because here, they can’t even articulate a theory of causation. It’s just these guys are hyenas, baying at the moon, and that must have had something to do with us, and there’s simply no proof of it.

Wise does something he and Derek Hines have done over and over: Make up claims that Lowell has insulted them, when instead Lowell has insulted the Republicans targeting Hunter (in the Delaware hearing, Hines also falsely claimed that Lowell was trying to delay the trial).

Then, Wise totally reframes Lowell’s argument, shifting Lowell’s focus to things that happened in May to “our decision-making” that happened in December. That wasn’t what Lowell was arguing, at all.

There may be no proof that Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler had any influence on the decision to charge Hunter with precisely the crimes they demanded he be charged with. But as I’ve noted, the proof that they were the dominoes that started the reversal of David Weiss’ initial prosecution decision is in Thomas Sobocinski’s still-unreleased transcript, which describes how Shapley’s May appearances led to threats and stalking of the investigative team. There’s proof. It’s just that everyone is withholding it from Hunter.

Then, for good measure, Wise suggests that it would be myopic to suggest that the non-stop focus on Hunter Biden on Fox News has led people outside of DC to know who Hunter Biden is.

And then — this is the most amazing thing — Leo Wise claimed that, “America can read about it’ — a reference to both drugs and use of escorts — “in the book.”

Nope. There’s one mention of an escort (as a sex worker) in the book — but it’s a description of a way to get drugs. There’s lots of mention of clubs in the book, but not sex clubs. The indictment mentions strippers twice, but only as one of the kind of human detritus a junkie hangs out with.

thieves, junkies, petty dealers, over-the-hill strippers, con artists, and assorted hangers-on,


my merry band of crooks, creeps, and outcasts


An ant trail of dealers and their sidekicks rolled in and out,


Their stripper girlfriends invited their girlfriends, who invited their boyfriends.

Nevertheless, Wise suggested he got his focus — and false suggestion that the women payments to whom Hunter allegedly wrote off improperly were sex workers –from Hunter’s book rather than Ziegler’s obsession with them (or watching Fox News or accessing public content attributed to the laptop).

Remember, Weiss’ team was so excited to include a payment to an exotic dancer in the indictment that they appear to have gotten the date wrong (as I suggested, this may mean that prosecutors didn’t do enough due diligence on what happened to Hunter’s Venmo account after two new devices accessed it in different cities at almost the same time).

Wise did so in a passage where he called Lowell’s motion “factless.” He did so in a hearing where he pounded the table, pretended to be a victim, and used the old “pound the table adage.”

And Judge Mark Scarsi appears to have adopted Weiss’ false claim about escorts being in the book when he said that, “Defendant himself brought notoriety to his conduct though the publication of a memoir.”

I get it: All three parties involved here have been caught making factual errors. Abbe Lowell claimed that public reports of the threats David Weiss faced were death threats and also misstated the timing of threats Trump made. Judge Scarsi claimed that an email said only the parties were involved in revising the diversion agreement, when the email in question said that Probation was involved. And Weiss’ team claimed sawdust is cocaine.

I get it. Much of Wise’s bluster is just totally banal prosecutorial dickishness. Leo Wise has been relying on prosecutorial dickishness for a very long time, at least since the prosecution of Joseph Nacchio bulldozed through Nacchio’s claim that he was prosecuted because he refused to let Qwest participate in Stellar Wind. It works! Especially with judges like Scarsi!

But this is the second time Weiss’ team has made a claim about Hunter’s memoir that was inaccurate (the other being a claim that the state of Hunter’s addiction in February 2019 after ketamine treatment exacerbated it was the state of his addiction when he purchased a gun in October 2018) even while arguing that the memoir is what distinguishes Hunter from other memoir writers like Roger Stone. That, along with the sawdust error and the belated warrant to search the laptop for materials supporting the gun crime raise real questions about what these prosecutors did do before obtaining these indictments. They don’t appear to have read the memoir, they don’t appear to have reviewed the actual laptop, they never indexed the laptop.

Abbe Lowell may not have proved his case that the IRS agents were the dominoes here. I don’t dispute Scarsi’s judgement that the standard here is incredibly high and Lowell didn’t meet it.

But if Weiss’ team didn’t get their sex worker obsession and errors from Ziegler and Shapley, the alternatives — given the evidence that they didn’t look where such evidence is known to be in hand — are actually worse. That is, it may well be they didn’t get their sex worker obsession from Ziegler. Does that mean they got it from Rudy Giuliani?

37 replies
  1. RipNoLonger says:

    It sounds like Wise, Weiss and others have read too many of those pot-boiler romance novels that paint the characters in 2D and are just formulaic crap. But that genre seems to appeal to their ultimate clients – the republican legislature and the maga crowd.

  2. Local Oaf says:

    Some of the indictment language reminds me of Jack Webb in Dragnet, 1967:

    And you’re going to rub elbows with all the elite: pimps, addicts, thieves, bums, winos, girls who can’t keep an address and men who don’t care. Liars, cheats, con men, the class of Skid Row.

    • RipNoLonger says:

      If only Tom Lehrer was here and now

      I love my friends, and they love me
      We’re just as close as we can be
      And just because we really care
      Whatever we get, we share!

      I got it from Agnes
      She got it from Jim
      We all agree it must have been
      Louise who gave it to him

      She got it from Harry
      Who got it from Marie
      And everybody knows that Marie
      Got it from me

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Oklahoma is about to make all that a series of felonies, because, you know, the “public” in public health makes it a commie thingy, and they can’t have that when they have prisons to fill.

        • OldTulsaDude says:

          Oklahoma governor Stitt is determined to make the state another Stitt’s Creek.

          [FYI – your comment was held up in moderation by a J instead of a U in your username. Check your browser’s cache and autofill. /~Rayne]

      • Susan D Einbinder says:

        Tom Lehrer’s still alive – he’s 96 years old. I’ve been listening to his songs for decades. Love ’em!!

      • xxbronxx says:

        Apologies in advance if this has been done –
        People Who Lied (h/t Jim Carroll)

        Perjured Weisselberg he was seven six
        Off to Rikers for five months time
        Bannon wore his two shirts and refused to speak
        Criminal contempt could do two years time
        Rudy Mister Mayor will not be missed
        Looked plain silly with his hair dark dyed
        He’s gonna do some time

        Those are people who lied, lied
        Those are people who lied, lied
        Those are people who lied, lied
        Those are people who lied, lied
        They were all Trump’s fools and just lied

        Manafort and Gates had their Slavic connection
        Should’a done a nickel but they had the right complexion
        Navarro call him doctor, crazy in the head
        Contemptuous of Congress, now he sits in stir
        Time to get well-read
        They were two more fools for Trump (two more fools that lied)

        Those are people who lied, lied
        Those are people who lied, lied
        Those are people who lied, lied
        Those are people who lied, lied
        They were all Trump’s fools and they lied

        • Violater says:

          Thank you. loved JIm Carroll. Was trying to option “Basketball Diaries” and were at an Indian Restaurant in NY. Jim, who was loud was describing, in detail, a deal gone south and the detailed use of an ax. The whole restaurant suddenly got very quiet. They were all my friends and….

          [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the SAME USERNAME and email address each time you comment so that community members get to know you. This comment was published as “violator”; your username has been corrected this once to match that used on your previous (13) comments. Please clear your browser’s cache and check your autofill. Thanks. /~Rayne]

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          Took my own crack at Jim’s lyrics vis a vis Keith Ablow et al some weeks back. Something about the cynicism and irony of this song, to say nothing of the propulsive rhythm, just fits this scenario.

    • coalesced says:

      I think she may be talking about the illegally obtained/Russian sourced data that Giuliani was passing to Brady “discreetly.”

  3. Sussex Trafalgar says:

    I find your paragraph below in quotes quite interesting as it reminds me of Judge Cannon’s behavior towards the SC in Florida.

    In my opinion, Wise and Hines, along with Cannon and others, are following a script given to them by yet unknown individuals who are working hard to help Trump defeat Biden in this November’s elections.

    “Wise does something he and Derek Hines have done over and over: Make up claims that Lowell has insulted them, when instead Lowell has insulted the Republicans targeting Hunter (in the Delaware hearing, Hines also falsely claimed that Lowell was trying to delay the trial).”

    • Peterr says:

      A ploy well known to faculty sitting on doctoral oral examination committees.

      Faculty member: Did you consider the critique of your position offered by so-and-so in her article entitled such-and-such?
      Candidate: That reminds me of a question I wish you had asked, so let me answer that question instead . . .

      Of course, the candidate is never so bold as to put it just like that, but every faculty member who has ever sat on an exam committee knows how to cut through the BS and see it for what it is.

      • Ginevra diBenci says:

        Peterr, your hypothetical gave me a flashback to a job interview that went very, very wrong when I had no idea what article the (hostile) professor from the interviewing school was asking about. It was supposedly my sub-sub-specialty, unreliable narration. I had not kept up with “the literature” since grad school.

        The rest was humiliation.

    • ShadeSeeker says:

      I think you’re right. Playing victim, feigned indignation and personal attacks have been used by Trump for years and now we see elements of this used by Canon, Wise and Weiss.
      Canon’s hypothetical jury instructions, seems to me to be an attempt to give Trump’s motion to dismiss using the presidential records act, an air of legitimacy, even though its not relevant in this case. This is free propaganda for Trump’s position. Upon Jack Smith’s reply she plays the victim and attacks him for ‘Unprecedented and unjust’ criticism.
      Similarly with publishing witness names and testimonies, she doesn’t concede without complaint.
      We’ve also seen this with Roger Stone, Wise and Weiss.
      This is a common thread, who is behind it?

  4. freebird says:

    Some of the so called whistleblower’s comments are personal and not professional. The television tours take on the quality of auditions for right-wing commentary. The IRS agents are so prejudiced that they could blow the DOJ’s case alone. For Wise to say he doesn’t know who they are strains credulity.

    • NYsportsfanSufferer says:

      Didn’t Weiss change the team after the plea/diversion was agreed to? Wise didn’t come in until late June or July which just makes Weiss look shady as hell. Wise probably isn’t lying when he says he never talked to these guys in relation to the case. Weiss essentially cleansed the palette by bringing in a new team.

      • freebird says:

        That means that Wise was being too cute by half. He said he could not pick the agents out a crowd. Being candid requires that Wise should state that he learned the identities of the agents and what they said at a later date as he was scrutinizing the facts of the case.
        So, yeah Weiss and Wise are pretending that the prior five years of investigations never happened and all this California stuff is new.

    • HikaakiH says:

      Hard to claim to be professionally diligent while also claiming to not know those particular names as they relate to this particular case.

      • freebird says:

        I would ask the IRS agents if they were offended by Biden’s behavior or because he did not pay the taxes. An agent saying that some one belongs in jail before a trial renders a verdict violates the presumption of innocence that our justice system is built on. I would put Shapley on the stand and ask him why he is perverting our judicial system.

  5. The Old Redneck says:

    This was always going to be ridiculously difficult for Lowell. Of course Wise could say “where is the proof,” because nobody ever owns up to this sort of thing.

    In the civil law world I come from, courts allow you to prove fraud by circumstantial evidence. They do this because they recognize that virtually no one ever confesses to committing a fraud. Wise spluttering and pounding the table tells us everything we need to know, but alas, it’s not enough under the standard the law imposes.

    Wise survived that round, as we fully expected, but I still think things will get interesting down the road and during the trial.

  6. Savage Librarian says:


    Maybe some day we’ll learn how Rudy
    ensconced the names of every dude he
    furtively dispatched with the loot he
    had pocketed inside his infamous duty.

    Just exactly how and who’d he
    stoop to reach? Each lousy cootie,
    known and unknown to Vlad the Pootie,
    (but sad that Vlad since lost his foodie.)

    Step by step the magnitude he
    maxed out even while he was stewed, he
    saw, bit by bit, as it came unglued. He
    did all he did (with a fig leaf) for booty?

  7. wetzel-rhymes-with says:

    Even with threats against the prosecutors, even with the two IRS agents Ken Boning everyone and the GOP Congress and talking heads all over the TV, Wise still has the unassailable counter-argument in that one can’t demonstrate with factual evidence a chain of causation in general. Nobody can know why Weiss, Wise, Wolf or Wittgenstein make this or that representation unless there is a command document or memo of intention. In literary criticism, there is something called the “intentional fallacy” where everybody learned against making strong claims about an author’s intentions.

    Maybe a frame or context of intentionality can lead a reasonable jury to conclude this was a political prosecution in the courtroom, so if Thomas Sobocinski’s still-unreleased transcript gets released, it might be helpful in court, but will the defense be allowed to bring any of these arguments into court? You don’t get to cross-examine the prosecutor, I think, even when they are a witness to the corruption of your prosecution! Maybe Sobocinski will save us, but I suspect like everything else there will be various interpretations.

    To this non-lawyer, it seems almost impossible to upset a prosecution based on prosecutor intention. Maybe you don’t want that to happen anyway. Past law review articles, TV news habits, or associations could work something like a bill of attainder to penalize a prosecutor without specific professional misconduct in the courtroom. For my part, anyway, a claim of strong causation for the IRS agents, the threats, and what-not, might be undermined by the IRS agents’ influence on Weiss but the influence of Smirnov’s allegations and Russian active measures in general. Have Gary Shapely or Joseph Ziegler ever been to Omsk?

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