Hunter Biden pleads not guilty to gun charges in Delaware court

President’s son indicted following collapse of plea deal as commander-in-chief prepares to run for reelection

Ariana Baio
in Delaware District Court
,Gustaf Kilander
Tuesday 03 October 2023 15:59 BST
Hunter Biden arrives at court for for arraignment on federal gun charges

Hunter Biden has pleaded not guilty to three gun-related charges at his arraignment in Delaware District Court in Wilmington.

Mr Biden and his defence team appeared in court on Tuesday morning following the collapse of his plea deal with the Department of Justice earlier this year.

Arriving shortly before his arraignment time at 10am, Mr Biden appeared calm while his attorney submitted his plea.

In mid-September, Mr Biden was federally indicted on three counts of gun-related charges. Prosecutors alleged that the president’s son knowingly lied to a licenced gun dealer and made false statements on a firearm application in order to obtain a Colt Cobra .38mm handgun in October 2018.

Mr Biden lives in California and had requested to appear at the hearing on Tuesday via video link, but US Magistrate Judge Christopher Burke agreed with the prosecution, saying that no “special treatment” would be given.

According to the indictment, Mr Biden knowingly lied about his previous drug use on a federal form. Mr Biden and his family have publicly acknowledged his substance abuse disorder to crack cocaine and alcohol.

He then, allegedly, possessed the illegally-obtained firearm for 11 days between 12 October and 23 October of that year. The federal charges come after Republicans in the House were trying to tie Mr Biden’s business dealings abroad to his father, President Joe Biden, in their effort to impeach him.

Judge Christopher Burke said the charges were brought by a federal grand jury before reading Mr Biden his charges, maximum sentencing and rights.

Mr Biden pleaded not guilty to three counts: False statement in purchase of a firearm, False Statement Related to Information Required to be Kept by a Federal Firearms Licensed Dealer, and Possession of a Firearm by a Person who is an Unlawful User of or Addicted to a Controlled Substance.

The charges could lead to up to 25 years in prison. Mr Biden’s attorney Abbe Lowell waived the reading of the indictment. Pre-trial motions must be filed before 3 November but no further hearings have yet in scheduled in the case.

While Mr Biden has admitted to having struggled with addiction, his lawyers have argued that he didn’t violate the law. Gun charges such as the ones Mr Biden is facing are rare, and an appeals court determined that the ban on drug users obtaining firearms goes against the principles of the Second Amendment under new standards set by the conservative-majority Supreme Court.

U.S. President Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, arrives to appear in a federal court on gun charges in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., October 3, 2023
U.S. President Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, arrives to appear in a federal court on gun charges in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., October 3, 2023 (REUTERS)

Mr Biden’s defence team are suggesting that the prosecutors have buckled under the pressure coming from Republicans who claim that the younger Biden received a better deal than a less high-profile defendant would. The lawyers claim that the charges filed following the collapse of the plea deal came after political pressure.

The indictment against Mr Biden came after his plea agreement on tax and gun charges blew up this summer. The deal came to an end after the judge, who was set to sign off on the deal, raised a number of questions regarding the agreement.

Prosecutors had been reviewing Mr Biden’s business dealings for half a decade and the deal would have avoided criminal proceedings ahead of his father’s 2024 reelection campaign.

The special counsel in charge of the case, David Weiss – also the US attorney for Delaware appointed by former president Donald Trump, has said that tax charges against Mr Biden may be filed in California or Washington DC.

Congressional Republicans have launched an impeachment inquiry into the president to attempt to connect him to his son’s business dealings abroad as they try to paint him as corrupt, claiming he received bribes. But they have so far been unable to provide any solid evidence for their claims, and the first hearing of the inquiry last week was branded a “disaster” by people on both sides of the aisle.

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)

Republicans are likely to try to keep up the pressure on both Bidens as they attempt to divert the public’s attention away from the many legal woes and ongoing trials of their likely nominee – Mr Trump.

Hunter Biden was quiet for years but has recently taken a more aggressive approach in responding to the legal problems he faces. He has filed a number of lawsuits in connection to the sharing of private information allegedly from his laptop as well as tax information shared by IRS agents who became whistleblowers when they took part in the investigation led by congressional Republicans.

Under the deal that fell apart this summer, Mr Biden would have pleaded guilty and served probation on misdemeanour tax charges without any jail time. He would also have avoided being prosecuted for a single gun count if he remained on the right side of the law for two years.

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