Hunter Biden, the son of US President Joe Biden, has pleaded not guilty to charges related to lying about his drug use while purchasing a handgun, marking the first-ever criminal prosecution of a sitting US president’s child.
The charges against Hunter Biden include three counts related to providing false information on a federal form to acquire a Colt Cobra handgun in 2018 and for possessing the firearm as an illegal drug user.
Appearing at the federal courthouse in Wilmington, Delaware, Hunter Biden wore a dark suit and tie, and when asked by US Magistrate Judge Christopher Burke, he responded with a clear “Yes, your honour” to enter his plea. The proceedings lasted approximately 25 minutes, and he arrived at the courthouse in a motorcade of six black sedans.
This legal development sets a historic precedent, as it involves the criminal trial of an adult child of a sitting US president who is actively campaigning for re-election. Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump, likely to be Biden’s Republican rival in the 2024 election, is facing four upcoming criminal trials, two of which are linked to his efforts to challenge the results of the 2020 election.
Hunter Biden’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, had requested that the hearing be conducted by video to avoid the logistical challenges associated with his in-person appearance. However, this request was denied by Judge Burke, who insisted that defendants must appear in person.
In a previous hearing in July, an agreement to resolve the gun charges and separate tax charges fell apart when a US District Judge refused to accept it. Under that arrangement, Hunter Biden would have pleaded guilty to misdemeanour tax violations and avoided penalties for the gun charges if he refrained from possessing firearms and using illegal drugs and alcohol for two years.
Abbe Lowell intends to file a motion to dismiss the case, believing that the original agreement remains in effect. Judge Burke indicated that such a motion should be filed by November 3.
Legal experts have suggested that any firearms-related charges against Hunter Biden could face constitutional challenges, especially following a 2020 Supreme Court ruling that expanded gun rights under the Second Amendment of the US Constitution.
Hunter Biden has been a target of political attacks by Republicans for years, particularly during the presidency of Donald Trump. Republicans have accused him of wrongdoing related to Ukraine and China and made him a focal point of a congressional impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden.
However, Hunter Biden has never held a position in the White House or his father’s campaign, and President Joe Biden has emphasised the independence of his Justice Department in any investigation involving a family member.