Hunter Biden pleads not guilty to federal gun charges

On Tuesday, the judge noted Hunter Biden had been repeatedly tested for drugs and is negative

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to three federal firearms charges filed after his earlier deal fell through, putting the case on track for a trial in 2024, during his father’s reelection campaign.

President Joe Biden’s son has been charged with lying about his drug use on a form to buy a gun in October 2018 that he kept for about 11 days. If convicted, he could face up to 25 years in prison. When asked if he understood the charges against him by Magistrate Judge Christopher Burke, he replied, “Yes, Your Honor.”

His attorney, Abbe Lowell, stated in court that he intends to file a motion to dismiss the charges, questioning their constitutionality.

“Mr. Biden pleads not guilty to the three counts that have been brought against him,” Lowell told the judge.

Hunter Biden has admitted to having a crack cocaine addiction during that time period in 2018, but his lawyers claim he did not break the law. Cases like this, in which drug users are accused of possessing firearms, are uncommon, and an appeals court has ruled that the underlying statute violates the Second Amendment under new Supreme Court standards.

On Tuesday, the judge stated that Hunter Biden had been tested for drugs several times and had come back negative each time.

Hunter Biden’s attorneys argue that prosecutors bowed to Republican pressure, claiming that the Democratic president’s son got a special deal and that the charges were the result of political pressure.

“President Trump and his MAGA allies” have forced “the Justice Department to ignore the law and deviate from its policies in cases like this one,” Lowell said after the brief hearing, referring to Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again campaign slogan.

Hunter Biden drove away from the courthouse shortly after the hearing, getting into a black SUV. The deadline for filing pretrial motions in this case is November 3. Pretrial release conditions include abstaining from alcohol and drugs; drug testing or substance abuse counseling if necessary; and continuing or seeking employment.

Hunter Biden agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanor tax charges earlier this summer and would have avoided prosecution on the gun charges if he had stayed out of trouble for two years. It was the culmination of a years-long investigation by federal prosecutors into the president’s son’s business dealings, and the agreement would have avoided criminal proceedings and saved the Bidens weeks of headlines as the election approached.

The agreement fell apart after the judge who was supposed to sign it instead asked a series of questions about it.

A special counsel has been appointed to handle the case, and there appears to be no quick resolution in sight. Hunter Biden was indicted on three gun charges, and no new tax charges have been filed — but the special counsel has indicated that those charges could be brought in Washington or California, where Hunter Biden resides.

Defense lawyers have argued that he is still protected by an immunity provision included in the canceled agreement, but prosecutors led by special counsel David Weiss disagree. Weiss is also the United States Attorney for the District of Delaware, a position he was appointed to by Trump.

Lowell said on Tuesday that he planned to file “a number of motions,” including one to dismiss the case based on an immunity agreement in the now-cancelled plea deal and another to challenge the constitutionality of the law prohibiting drug users from possessing firearms.

Lowell also stated that the defense intends to request an evidentiary hearing.

House Republicans are attempting to link Hunter Biden’s dealings to his father’s through an impeachment investigation. Republicans have been looking into Hunter Biden for years because his father served as Barack Obama’s vice president. While questions have been raised about the ethics of the Biden family’s international business, no evidence has emerged to date to prove that Joe Biden abused his position or accepted bribes in his current or previous office.

The legal wrangling is likely to continue into 2024, with Republicans eager to divert attention away from Trump’s multiple criminal indictments, which could be heard at the same time as his trials.

Hunter Biden has taken a more aggressive legal stance in recent weeks, filing a series of lawsuits over the alleged dissemination of personal information from his laptop and tax data by whistleblower IRS agents who testified before Congress as part of the GOP investigation.

Hunter Biden, who lives in the Los Angeles area, had requested that the hearing be held remotely via video feed on Tuesday, but Burke sided with prosecutors, saying there would be no “special treatment.”

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