Hunter Biden To Appear In Court In October On Three Gun Charges

FILE PHOTO: Hunter Biden, son of U.S. President Joe Biden, departs federal court after a plea hearing on two misdemeanor charges of willfully failing to pay income taxes in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S. July 26, 2023. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

A judge has denied a request by President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, to appear remotely via video to face federal gun charges.

He will be arraigned in person at a Delaware federal court on 3 October on three criminal counts, of possessing a gun while he was an illegal drug user and lying to buy it.

Hunter Biden’s lawyers have said he will plead not guilty.

If convicted, the 53-year-old could face up to 25 years in prison.

In a two-page court filing on Tuesday, Mr Biden’s attorney Abbe Lowell had asked for his client to enter his not guilty plea via video conference as it would “minimize an unnecessary burden on government resources and the disruption” from a Secret Service detail accompanying him.

This was not a case of the president’s son “seeking any special treatment”, he wrote.

But Magistrate Judge Christopher Burke denied the request in a court order on Wednesday, noting that government prosecutors had already opposed it.

Appearing in person would “emphasize the integrity and solemnity of a federal criminal proceeding”, he said.

Judge Burke added that the criminal charges against Mr Biden “are new and were not addressed at his prior hearing” in relation to a plea agreement.

The charges on which Mr Biden was indicted last week stem from October 2018, when he bought a handgun in Delaware in a period when he was struggling with a crack cocaine addiction.

But Mr Biden allegedly lied on the federal firearm application form, stating that he was not using illegal drugs at the time, for which he now faces two felony counts punishable by up to 10 years each.

A third count relates to his possession of the firearm while being a drug user, and carries a maximum prison sentence of up to five years.

Hunter and Joe Biden at an event in 2016IMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES
Image caption,

Hunter and Joe Biden at an event in 2016

The weapon was found in Mr Biden’s vehicle by his late brother’s widow, Hallie, who tossed it into a rubbish bin behind a shop, reportedly out of fear he might use the gun to hurt himself.

The pistol was returned to the store days later by a man who discovered it while rummaging through the bin for recyclable items. By then, the missing weapon had drawn separate investigations from Delaware police and the Secret Service.

In June, a plea deal reached between prosecutors and Mr Biden’s legal team on gun and tax charges collapsed after another judge raised objections, noting the agreement was “unusual”.

Under the terms of that deal, Mr Biden would have been forced to admit to illegal possession of a firearm and agree to drug treatment and monitoring to avoid a felony charge and potential imprisonment.

He would also have pleaded guilty to two misdemeanour counts for failing to pay his taxes on time in 2017 and 2018.

Legal analysts have said, however, that the basis of the new gun charges against Mr Biden may be subject to a constitutional challenge.

Mr Biden has no prior criminal record. He had the weapon for fewer than two weeks and never used it. Few people matching that profile face such charges, let alone prison time, they note.

Charges against Mr Biden over his alleged tax violations were formally dismissed in August.

Prosecutors have indicated they will refile the charges in California or Washington DC rather than in Delaware.

Hunter Biden has become a political lightning rod, despite not holding a position in the White House or on his father’s re-election campaign.

The House of Representatives Oversight Committee will next week hold its first impeachment inquiry hearing into the president over his son’s business dealings.

The White House says the Republican-led inquiry is politically motivated and predicated on baseless claims.

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