A drab courtroom and a swift hearing: Hunter Biden and his gun charges head to court

Surrounded by his defence team and security in a stark federal courtroom, Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty to three firearm-related charges, Ariana Baio reports from Wilmington, Delaware

Tuesday 03 October 2023 23:06 BST
Hunter Biden, walks outside on the day of his appearance in a federal court on gun charges in Wilmington, Delaware, US on 3 October 2023
Hunter Biden, walks outside on the day of his appearance in a federal court on gun charges in Wilmington, Delaware, US on 3 October 2023 (REUTERS)

Less than 100 miles from where President Joe Biden tended to official business on Tuesday morning, his son sat in a windowless room on the second floor of the J Caleb Boggs Federal Building in Wilmington, Delaware.

Sporting a dark suit and noticeably shorter haircut, Hunter Biden situated himself between his defence counsel under the close watchful eye of the Secret Service while waiting for Judge Christopher Burke to arrive.

It is the second time in less than three months that Mr Biden, 53, appeared in the courthouse to enter a plea.

The president’s son leaned back in his chair while quietly chatting with his attorney, Abbe Lowell, just before his first appearance and arraignment regarding his three firearm-related charges.

Hunter Biden pleads not guilty three gun charges in Delaware court

From the moment Mr Biden entered the courtroom he exuded a calm and humble demeanour – strolling past the gallery and flashing a brief soft smile to reporters before taking his seat – even while facing charges that carry a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and $750,000 in fines.

It’s a reminder of the media training Mr Biden has likely picked up on thanks to decades spent in a public-facing family.

At 10am, Judge Burke entered the courtroom and began Mr Biden’s first appearance and arraignment regarding the three charges in which Mr Biden is accused of lying about his previous drug usage to obtain a Colt Cobra .38 handgun in October 2018.

The charges were brought forth by federal prosecutors in September after a potential plea deal Mr Biden had struck with the Department of Justice fell through in July.

The president’s son made an appearance at the same courthouse with the intention to plead guilty to two misdemeanour tax charges but the magistrate judge in that case asked the defence and prosecutors to separate the charges.

Mr Biden could still face tax-related charges from the Justice Department.

Hunter Biden, son of US President Joe Biden, leaves the J. Caleb Boggs Federal Building in Wilmington, Delaware, on October 3, 2023
Hunter Biden, son of US President Joe Biden, leaves the J. Caleb Boggs Federal Building in Wilmington, Delaware, on October 3, 2023 (AFP via Getty Images)

Judge Burke went through the charges: falsifying a federal firearms application, lying to a federally licensed gun dealer and possession of an illegally obtained gun for 11 days.

At each mention, Mr Biden sat up straight and leaned forward. Occasionally, he put on glasses to read a piece of paper in front of him.

Judge Burke asked Mr Biden to confirm his understanding of the charges, the maximum sentencing they carry and the conditions of release.

“Yes, your honour,” Mr Biden said – the only words he spoke the entirety of the 30-minute hearing. His inflection and voice were drenched in the familiarity of President Biden’s.

The judge then asked Mr Biden’s defence to submit their plea to which Mr Lowell indicated his client would plead not guilty to all three charges.

No more than five minutes later, the court hearing was over.

Tuesday’s first appearance and arraignment were the result of a five-year-long investigation into Mr Biden’s business dealings, finances and personal conduct.

The various controversies associated with Mr Biden have become reputation-defining over the last few years. Allegations of corrupt foreign business dealings and tax violations, a scandal involving his laptop, Mr Biden’s struggle with substance abuse disorder and eyebrow-raising romantic relationships are just to name a few.

So of all the potential charges for the president’s son to be facing, allegations of lying about his use of drugs to obtain a firearm are perplexing.

Often, crimes of this nature do not result in an indictment like in Mr Biden’s case. And most of the time, those accused of lying on a federal firearms application negotiate deals rather than spend time in prison.

Mr Lowell claimed the charges against Mr Biden were “political pressure from President Trump and his MAGA allies to force the Justice Department to ignore the law and deviate from its policies,” after the hearing on Tuesday.

Republicans have capitalised on Mr Biden’s bad press to claim his father is corrupt and unelectable as well as justify impeachment proceedings which have so far failed to produce any damning evidence.

It may also be an attempt to divert attention from the GOP’s leading presidential candidate Donald Trump and his multitude of criminal and civil trials.


Judge Burke has set a 30-day deadline for any pretrial motions which Mr Biden’s defence team said they intend to file to have the charges dismissed.

No trial date has been set yet.

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