Leo Wise’s Performed Ignorance

I want to look at a tactic that Leo Wise — who purports to be enforcing Rule of Law — used at the Hunter Biden trial, because it demonstrates how aggressively he polices the boundaries of his own plausible deniability, plausible deniability he used elsewhere in these proceedings to make claims he should know are false.

I’ve already pointed to the nutty response Abbe Lowell elicited from Jason Turner who, when he worked at the gun shop where Hunter bought a gun (he now works for the US Mint!), was in charge of ensuring paperwork was in order.

Turner’s testimony appears to be totally honest. He said, first, that he told Gordon Cleveland to get a second form of ID. And then, without saying whether Cleveland did do so or not, said that if he had, Turner would have written it on the line for doing that.

Q. Then you said that you told Mr. Cleveland something, right?

A. He needed to get further government issued identification with an address on it.

Q. Right. And if he did, what would you do with that?

A. I would have written it right in there. [my emphasis]

When Lowell asks Turner why it’s not on the form, Turner then changes from the conditional tense to the past tense. “I would have written it … I wrote that.”

Four times Turner asserts he did write that he had gotten a vehicle registration.

According to the publicly known facts, he did write it — two or three years after the fact.

Q. But you don’t see such writing in there, do you?

A. When I wrote that out, I wrote the car registration.

Q. You don’t see such a writing in there, do you?

A. When I wrote that out, I wrote car registration.

Q. When you wrote this out, you wrote car registration here or car registration there?

A. 18(b), car registration.

Q. You wrote it?

A. I wrote it.

Q. Where is it?

A. I wrote vehicle registration in there. [my emphasis]

But then Lowell asks him where it is on the form. “It’s not there,” Turner also truthfully describes.

Q. I’m asking you if you did and this is the form, where is it on the form that you say you wrote?

A. It’s not there.

Leo Wise — who purports to be enforcing Rule of Law — interrupts to halt this line of questioning. He states that this line of questioning has been excluded (expanding the already expansive limits on Hunter’s Sixth Amendment Judge Noreika authorized), and then offers up that poor Jason Turner is simply describing his memory of writing the form.

The second form of identity required by rule of law, Leo Wise — who purports to be enforcing rule of law — says, is irrelevant.

MR. WISE: Your Honor, may we approach side-bar?

(Side-bar discussion.

MR. WISE: So this line of questioning was excluded, he has a memory of writing it, he hasn’t established when, he’s not impeached him, he said he remembered writing it in. He’s asking him about the day, but he’s not distinguishing, and this is simply irrelevant, a secondary form of ID is irrelevant.

Lowell responds (and while all the lawyers in this case were willing to game the limits of trial conduct, in this case, this is completely believable) that he had no idea how Turner would respond to his question.

MR. LOWELL: Wow. I have no idea he was about to say what he just said, that he wrote in a different form of identification.

THE COURT: He’s confused as to the time.

MR. LOWELL: I know he is and I’m not going there but he said it, so I just wanted to ask who wrote it, where is it, I didn’t know he was going to say that, judge.

MR. WISE: He did know that because the [Jencks] that we gave you from Palimere, said Palimere told him to write it.

MR. LOWELL: Two years later.

MR. WISE: That’s not your question.

MR. LOWELL: I’m asking him on that day, I’m asking him on that day.

THE COURT: What you can do now is you can just say there is nothing about the vehicle registration. It is not written in this box on this version of the form.

Ultimately, Judge Noreika believes that Lowell had no idea how Turner would respond, because she was surprised herself.

MR. LOWELL: Okay. But let’s be clear on the record, when you say I knew he was going — I had no idea he was going to say that.

THE COURT: I take your word for that. I didn’t know he was going to say that.

After that exchange, Lowell got Turner to concede that the registration was not marked on the form.

(End of side-bar.

BY MR. LOWELL: Q. So what I was asking you is from whatever you just said about the testimony of anything having to do with the registration, you and I can be clear that on this form that has the date on it, there is no such reference in line 18(b), right?

A. There should be.

Now, note that Leo Wise handled cross of Turner and — as we’ll see — of Ron Palimere, the gun shop owner. We know that Derek Hines attended an interview with Palimere in May, and neither prosecutor attended an interview with Cleveland; FBI Agent Erika Jensen did that by herself.

But Wise undoubtedly knows that Hines met with Palimere mere weeks ago, at which Hines reiterated the proffer that prohibited prosecutors from using Palimere’s admission that, “No one thought to get supplemental information” substantiating that Hunter lived at his father’s address because, “everyone in the area knows who lives” there. Wise undoubtedly also knows that Palimere described just writing something convenient in on the form, because “it was all they could think of.”

Palimere decided to write Delaware registration in the box labeled 18.b. Palimere does not know why that was chosen but he knew it had to be an official document and it was all they could think of. Turner was the one who wrote Delaware vehicle registration in the box.

Palimere thinks that if Biden presented a vehicle registration on the day of the sale, it would have been documented on the certified 4473.

Normally, they would call a customer if they found an error/omission and needed to annotate the Form 4473. The ability to annotate the Fom 4473 is allowed by the ATF. For this case, a typical customer would have been called and told they needed to come back in and bring registration to show the residency.

Palimere was not about to call Biden. Palimere felt they could not have him come into the store. Plus, Palimere did not want to contact Biden and tell him he needed to come in and he was being investigated.

Wise undoubtedly knows all that.

But he did something notable to pretend to have plausible deniability about it, to pretend to have nothing to do with any uncertainty that Lowell might introduce.

When Lowell asked Palimere a question he didn’t ask of Turner (whether they had ever met before, a fairly standard trial question), Leo Wise objected when Lowell said that Palimere had met with “prosecutors,” plural.

Q. My name is Abbe Lowell, we’ve never met?

A. No, sir.

Q. Never spoken?

A. No, sir.

Q. You have spoken to the prosecutors and investigators in the case, right?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. And we have —

MR. WISE: Your Honor, I object to that question, prosecutors and investigators, we’ve never met as well.

MR. LOWELL: I’m sorry.

BY MR. LOWELL:  Q. You have met with members of the FBI?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Even recently; correct?

A. Yes, sir. [my emphasis]

Wise objected to the question, one that Palimere had already answered in the affirmative, creating the illusion of plausible deniability, one that served to obscure that Derek Hines had not only met with Palimere, but learned that Palimere knowingly sold a gun without proper paperwork.

Wise had no questions for Parlimere.

But he did for Turner.

Indeed, even before he introduced himself, he asked Turner whether Hunter’s attorneys had succeeded in meeting with him before trial. Turner didn’t respond. Instead he suggested that they had set up a meeting but Hunter’s attorneys, “can’t be on time for nothing.”

Q. Good morning, Mr. Turner.

A. Good morning.

Q. So you were subpoenaed by the defense as a witness, right?

A. Correct.

Q. Did they try to talk with you before they did that, before you testified here today?

A. That’s a whole mess of stuff right there.

Q. Really?

A. I got the subpoena, I had to call them.

Q. Uh-huh.

A. And they can’t be on time for nothing.

Q. What does that mean?

A. I work third shift.

Q. Uh-huh.

A. And so I should be sleeping right now.

Q. What does third shift mean?

A. Third shift, that’s on the other side of the clock from everybody else, I go in at 6:00 p.m., I get done at 5 a.m.

Q. Is that what you got done today?

A. Yes.

Q. All right. So I just have a — you and I have never met, right, Mr. Turner?

A. I don’t even know you from nobody.

Q. I just have a couple of questions?

In fact, Judge Noreika even interrupted to remind Wise to introduce himself!

THE COURT: Did you introduce yourself?

MR. WISE: I’m not sure. I will.

THE COURT: He said he doesn’t know you.

BY MR. WISE: Q. My name is Leo wise, I represent the United States in this case. Nice to meet you.

So if we could have government Exhibit 10A on the screen. This is the form that Mr. Biden filled out that Mr. Lowell asked you about, right?

A. Correct. Actually that form is wrong.

As she did not do when, for example, Kathleen Buhle answered a question that had been excluded from questioning by offering up that Hunter had, “gotten kicked out of the Navy for testing positive for cocaine,” Judge Noreika warned Turner not to answer questions prosecutors had not asked.

THE COURT: Just take it one step at a time, only answer the questions that he asks.

THE WITNESS: Yes, ma’am.

Wise badly wanted to know whether Lowell had learned any of the details prosecutors were hiding from him, so much so he forgot his manners.

Part of this was about preventing jurors from learning that Leo Wise’s application of Rule of Law is, in fact, selective, from learning that Wise’s sidekick Derek Hines had in fact already immunized a potential crime, one with potentially greater impact on society, from these witnesses.

But part of it was also about policing his own plausible deniability.

7 replies
  1. dopefish says:

    The problem of prosecutorial dickishness (which is a fabulous phrase, thanks Dr. Wheeler!) seems to be one of incentives.

    Prosecutors are heavily incentivized to get convictions, and in any adversarial system, they’re going to find the boundaries of acceptable behavior, and push those boundaries whenever they can do so without getting noticed and called out and penalized somehow for it. You could try and ban some specific tricks they use to get an unfair advantage, but they will always find other tricks, and since the legal system mostly presumes good faith behavior by attorneys on both sides, there is a lot of scope for underhanded stuff to happen. Sometimes the Court might restrain them, but not always.

    If society really wanted a justice system where prosecutors didn’t behave like this, they would need to set it up so incentives acting on prosecutors were all about finding truth and getting to a just outcome, not just winning their cases. Dickishness by either side, would have to be heavily de-incentivized by the rules of this system. It would be really difficult to construct a system with the right incentives, but also mostly nobody wants that—most people want “criminals” to be punished, which means they want prosecutors to win their cases.

    Until they’re on the receiving end, most folks are not likely to think much about the propriety of the prosecutors’ methods.

  2. Savage Librarian says:

    Plausible deniability was a topic of discussion at one of the monthly meetings I was required to attend as a manager. I remember it caused a bit of a stir because it felt shady, not quite on the up and up.

    Several years before that a city attorney came to one of our meetings to instruct us on progressive discipline. He told us to overcharge any transgressions of civil service rules. He said we could always negotiate down later. I asked how that was progressive but he couldn’t answer.

    After I lost my case in court, part of the settlement was that I was forbidden to attend managers’ meetings for 5 years. During that time, one of my colleagues told me I wasn’t missing much.

    Honestly, I had much better training in the federal government and in the college classes I took on my own. And I was glad to hear it when that particular attorney left to enter private practice. I do wonder how he handles discipline there, though.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The city lawyer’s advice to you seems consistent with a standard manipulative, anti-labor, anti-union mentality often found among corporate labor lawyers. Those who don’t share such traits tend to be filtered out.

      Progressive discipline sounds fair and mutually beneficial. But like all restraints on management, managers avoid it. One reason is that it’s hard to do. It requires consistency and proper documentation, individually and staff-wide. Not a lot of managers pull it off. That, and a documented lack of common treatment for similar problems creates liability for managers and payouts to employees.

      As an aside, I’m always amazed when public library managers adopt a vehement anti-labor mentality more similar to the auto industry, despite huge differences in employee make-up. I think it’s because outside boards tend to be monopolized by representatives from private business. It comes along with them, like mud on boots.

      • Spencer Dawkins says:

        I wasn’t sure what “progressive discipline” meant, but a quick Google search makes me think “overcharging and then backing off” is the exact opposite of progressive discipline. What am I missing?

    • Rayne says:

      So you’re saying Beryl Howell, Amy Berman Jackson, Sonia Sotomayor, and Ketanji Brown Jackson are dicks because they’re judges? O_o

  3. Savage Librarian says:

    Constitutional Disposition

    Weiss’ men say
    Only rules rush in
    So strap and belt
    brawling is what they do

    Shall they prey
    Would it be a win
    To strap and belt
    brawling Trump’s way on you

    Like a shiver goes
    Through a reneged plea
    Charging this way shows
    Some things augment Rudy

    Take their stand
    Screw a life up, too
    But strap and belt
    brawling may get you, too


    “Can’t Help Falling In Love – Elvis Presley – Violin – Karolina Protsenko”

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