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Joe Biden’s Political Origin Story Is Almost Certainly Bogus. It May Land Him In Legal Trouble.

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Joe Biden’s Political Origin Story Is Almost Certainly Bogus. It May Land Him In Legal Trouble.

March 25, 2024

For nearly two decades, President Joe Biden has told a story about why he devoted his life to politics. He repeated the tale, at the risk of facing criminal charges for lying to a federal agent, while speaking to Special Counsel Robert Hur in October 2023.

Fresh out of law school and working as a clerk at a high-powered Wilmington, Delaware, law firm, Biden, in his telling, was tapped to defend a construction company sued by a 23-year-old welder who “lost part of his penis and one of his testicles” to a fire that broke out when he was working inside a chimney at a Delaware City plant. Thanks to Biden’s shrewd legal defense on the construction company’s behalf, the injured man lost the case.

“I wrote this memo. And son of a b—, it prevailed,” Biden told Hur on Oct. 8. “And I looked over at that kid…and I thought, ‘son of a b—, I’m in the wrong business, I’m not made for this.’”

Biden said he was so wracked with guilt that he concocted an excuse to avoid a celebratory lunch with one of the firm’s named partners and walked into the public defender’s office to ask for a job that very day. It’s “the only time I ever lied,” Biden told Hur on Oct. 8. Thus began, according to a New York Times report on the special counsel interview, “a career that would one day take him to the White House.”

But this story is almost certainly a complete work of fiction. Although Biden did work at a law firm tapped to defend a construction company in a negligence suit like the one he described to Hur, the case concluded in 1968, while Biden was still in law school. And the welder won, walking away with $315,000, more than $2.8 million in 2024 dollars.

Biden, whose 1988 presidential campaign collapsed amid allegations that he had plagiarized speeches and a law school paper, has a long record of embellishments and yarn spinning. Over the years, he has told several stories about himself that don’t stand up to scrutiny. Those fibs range from the small and peculiar—he claimed in November 2023 that he was offered a spot on the Naval Academy’s football team—to the mendacious, such as his insistence that he never spoke with his son, Hunter Biden, about the latter’s foreign business dealings.

This report is based on a review of court records obtained from the National Archives as well as contemporaneous news reports and interviews with Biden’s former law firm colleagues and federal court clerks.

Over the years, Biden has told different versions of the welder story. He told Hur that he received several offers from “prestigious law firms,” one of which he landed because of his good looks. Biden says he accepted a job at Prickett, Ward, Burt & Sanders but could not begin work until he passed the bar exam and started as a law clerk at the firm.

In his 2007 memoir, however, Biden says he had very few job prospects after his 1968 graduation from Syracuse University Law School and that Prickett took a chance on him, offering him a role despite his poor grades—including the F he received in a torts class after he was caught plagiarizing.

Regardless, Biden began work at Prickett in 1968 and spent about a year at the firm. It was there, Biden says, that senior partner William Prickett tapped him to draft a motion to dismiss a case against the firm’s client, Catalytic Construction Company, which had been sued by a welder who had been engulfed in flames while working inside a chimney at a Delaware plant.

If there was any “slightly contributory negligence,” Biden said to Hur, “you were out.” So, Biden told Hur that, in his brief, he leveraged the welder’s failure to wear protective gear and argued the worker bore legal responsibility for his misfortune.

The Washington Free Beacon was unable to find any record of Biden working on a case that fits this description or any record of Prickett handling such a case while Biden was in the firm’s employ.

Biden’s story bears a striking resemblance to a case Prickett took on while Biden was still an undergraduate at the University of Delaware. Some of the language Biden used in recounting the incident to Hur matches that found in an article published by the Wilmington News-Journal, which Biden reportedly reads daily.

In May 1962, Joseph Januszewski, a welder for the Catalytic Construction Company, was working inside a chimney at the Stauffer Chemical plant in Delaware. At one point, the News-Journal reported, “sparks from his torch apparently ignited a chemical substance used to clean water” and engulfed his body in flames.

The accident left Januszewski disfigured. Surgeons amputated his leg at the thigh and he was wheelchair bound until his death in 1972.

A Pennsylvanian who was 56 years old at the time of the accident, Januszewski was working inside a “vessel” at the plant when the accident occurred, a detail Biden emphasized during his interview with Hur. Both Januszewski and his wife sued the Catalytic Construction Company in 1964. William Prickett represented Catalytic.

 

Whether Januszewski was left without a penis, as Biden claimed, is unclear. In April 1968, a federal jury sided with Januszewski and awarded him $315,000, a massive sum worth more than $2.8 million in 2024 dollars.

It is extremely unlikely that Biden had any involvement in the case. He was 21 years old when Januszewski filed suit in May 1964. At the time, Biden was completing his junior year at the University of Delaware in Newark. He was finishing his law degree at Syracuse University when a federal jury ruled in Januszewski’s favor four years later, and didn’t start working for Prickett, Ward, Burt & Sanders until at least June 1968, according to his memoir. By then, records show, the case had concluded. No appeal was filed.

There is a possibility that Biden is referring to another civil case tried in the late 1960s in the District Court of Delaware or its Pennsylvania counterpart that saw William Prickett defending the Catalytic Construction Company against a welder and his wife suing over burns sustained while working inside a “vessel” at a company plant.

But if there was such a case, no one can locate it. The District Court of Delaware only keeps records for cases dating back to 1974, a clerk told the Free Beacon. Nor does Prickett, Ward, Burt & Sanders have any records on it. A spokesman for the firm, which is now named Prickett, Jones & Elliot, told the Free Beacon that its records from the Januszewski case and any others in the late 1960s have long been destroyed. William Prickett died in 2014.

“We are familiar with the passage in Mr. Biden’s autobiography discussing our firm and a civil action William Prickett and Mr. Biden worked on,” the spokesman said. “Unfortunately we cannot confirm that the Januszewski matter is the one to which the autobiography refers. Any records from the case, and other matters the firm handled in the late 1960s, are well outside the time period of our records retention policy and have likely been destroyed.”

The Free Beacon obtained a copy of the case records from the National Archives in Washington, D.C. A staff member there could not locate any cases with similar fact patterns.

Spokesmen for the White House did not respond to requests for comment.

This piece has been updated to reflect that Biden was not under oath while speaking to Hur, but could still face criminal charges for lying to a federal agent.

This article was originally from The Free Beacon.

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