Hunter Biden pleads not guilty to federal gun charges

The charges were originally part of a plea deal that fell apart in July.

October 3, 2023, 11:33 AM

President Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden formally entered a plea of not guilty to felony gun charges Tuesday, setting up the possibility of a high-profile trial as his father embarks on a reelection bid in the coming year.

Appearing in the same federal courthouse in Delaware where his plea deal with prosecutors fell apart over the summer, the younger Biden indicated he would fight the three-count indictment brought last month by special counsel David Weiss -- the same prosecutor who brokered the ill-fated agreement.

After entering his plea, Abbe Lowell, an attorney for Biden, signaled his intention to file a motion to dismiss the government's case. He said they would challenge the constitutionality of at least one charge, and argued that elements of his prior plea agreement remained in effect.

Judge Christopher Burke set a Nov. 3 deadline for the parties to file motions.

Throughout the hearing, Hunter Biden followed along as the judge read the charges, the potential penalties, and his rights -- nodding along and answering, "Yes, your honor," when asked if he understood.

Judge Burke also said Hunter Biden would remain under the same conditions of supervised release imposed during the plea hearing in July, noting his compliance with the rules over the past few months.

The judge said that since the plea hearing, Hunter Biden has submitted to "a number of" random drug tests and has tested negative each time. The judge also said the younger Biden has been "agreeable" to the terms.

PHOTO: Hunter Biden leaves after a court appearance, July 26, 2023, in Wilmington, Del.
Hunter Biden leaves after a court appearance, July 26, 2023, in Wilmington, Del.
Julio Cortez/AP, FILE

As part of his supervised release, Hunter Biden must remain alcohol-free and ask permission in writing from his probation officer for any international travel.

In a statement issued after the hearing, Lowell noted that Weiss had originally decided not to pursue the gun charges against his client, and said the charges were the result of "political pressure from President Trump and his MAGA allies to force the Justice Department to ignore the law and deviate from its policies."

Weiss indicted Hunter Biden last month after a yearslong investigation. That probe appeared on the cusp of completion in June, when Weiss' office brokered a two-pronged plea agreement with Hunter Biden's legal team.

The deal, however, deteriorated under questioning by a federal judge in July.

The agreement would have allowed Hunter Biden to avoid prison time in exchange for a guilty plea on misdemeanor tax charges and a diversion agreement on one felony gun charge.

Instead, the younger Biden now faces the three gun charges and potentially more tax-related charges in the coming weeks or months. Prosecutors also suggested in open court that they may pursue charges related to Hunter Biden's overseas business endeavors, including potential violation of foreign lobbying laws.

Lowell said on ABC's "Good Morning America" last month that, "on the facts, we think we'll have a defense" to the gun charges.

Lowell initially sought to waive Hunter Biden's court appearance, asking the court to allow him to enter his plea via video conference in order to limit what he called "the financial impact on government resources and the logistical burden on the downtown area of Wilmington."

But prosecutors pushed back on that request and a federal magistrate judge ultimately ordered Hunter Biden to appear in person.

The hearing comes as Hunter Biden fights legal battles on several other fronts. Last week, House Republicans held the first hearing of their impeachment inquiry into President Biden, drawing largely on unproven ties between the president's political career and his son's business endeavors.

The younger Biden is also waging a legal counteroffensive against his most vocal critics and the alleged purveyors of personal data derived from a laptop he purportedly left at a Delaware computer repair shop in 2018.

If Hunter Biden is found guilty on the three gun-related charges, he could face up to 25 years in prison -- though the Justice Department has said any sentence would likely fall far short of that maximum penalty.

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