Hunter Biden was accused on federal guns charges on Thursday, the latest move in a long-running probe against the president’s son, putting the case on track for a high-stakes trial as the 2024 race approaches.
According to an indictment filed in federal court in Delaware by a special counsel supervising the investigation, Biden is accused of lying about his drug usage when he purchased a weapon in October 2018, a time when he has admitted to dealing with crack cocaine addiction.
The charge comes only weeks after a plea arrangement that would have avoided a criminal trial and distracting headlines for President Joe Biden fell down.
The legal battle does not appear to be coming to an end anytime soon. Hunter Biden’s defense counsel claims he did not break the law and is still covered by an immunity provision included in the plea agreement. Meanwhile, the charges are rarely presented as stand-alone counts, and a federal appeals court recently ruled that the mechanism under which he was prosecuted was unlawful.
He’s also being investigated for his business operations, and the special counsel has hinted that tax charges might be made in Washington or California, where he lives, at some time.
The legal wrangling occurs with a political battle. The House has formally begun an impeachment investigation on the Democratic president, attempting to link the elder Biden to his son’s companies while diverting attention away from former President Donald Trump’s own legal problems. Trump’s include federal prosecutions for handling confidential materials and efforts to reverse his loss to Joe Biden in the 2020 election.
Republicans have found no serious evidence of misconduct by the older Biden, who spoke often to his son as vice president and attended a business dinner with his son’s partners. According to the White House, Joe Biden was not involved in his son’s business dealings.
Republicans Criticize Hunter Biden’s ‘Sweetheart Deal,’ Call for Investigation into Business Ties
Republicans called the plea agreement that kept Hunter Biden out of jail a “sweetheart deal.” Rep. James Comer, the Republican who is leading the impeachment probe, termed the gun accusations “a very small start” and asked for an investigation into whether the president was involved in his son’s business operations. Trump also emphasized the gun charge plea agreement’s absence of a tie to Joe Biden.
Over the course of their years-long investigation, federal prosecutors investigating Hunter Biden have not indicated that Joe Biden is involved. Last month, Trump-appointed Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss was upgraded to special counsel, giving him extensive authority to investigate and report his findings.
According to the three-count indictment he filed on Thursday, Hunter Biden lied on a paperwork needed for every gun transaction when he purchased a.38-caliber Colt Cobra Special at a gun store in Wilmington, Delaware.
He’s been charged with two counts of making false statements, the first for fraudulently ticking a box claiming he wasn’t addicted to narcotics and the second for providing it to the business for federally mandated records. According to a third count, he had the pistol for around 11 days despite knowing he was a drug user.
If convicted, the charges carry a potential punishment of 25 years in prison, though “actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum sentence,” according to a Justice Department statement from Weiss.
Hunter Biden, 53, had previously pleaded guilty to felony firearms charges as part of a plea agreement that also included guilty pleas to misdemeanor counts of failing to pay taxes on almost $4 million in income in 2017 and 2018.
He would not have pleaded guilty to the gun charge under the agreements, and prosecutors would have agreed to drop it provided he kept out of trouble for two years. The deal, however, disintegrated during a court hearing in July when a judge expressed concerns about it.
Defense attorney Abbe Lowell contended that a portion of the agreement, which includes immunity from other prospective charges, is still in effect. In a statement, he claimed Hunter Biden “possessing an unloaded gun for 11 days” posed no threat to public safety and lambasted “‘MAGA Republicans’ improper and partisan interference in this process,” a reference to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.
Lowell took over after Hunter Biden’s former counsel in the case, Christopher Clark, resigned, citing the possibility of being summoned to testify regarding the immunity terms.
Prosecutors claim the deal never went into force and is thus no longer legal.
Charges for gun possession by drug addicts are uncommon, especially when not tied to other offenses. According to US Sentencing Commission data, around 5% of all defendants convicted for unlawful gun possession in 2021 were charged owing to drug usage.
Constitutional Law Expert Highlights Uncommon Nature of Firearms Prosecutions for Substance Abusers
According to Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor and expert in gun policy at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, the majority of such prosecutions are brought against persons who are also charged with another felony. “It’s relatively uncommon to prosecute someone for being a substance abuser in possession of firearms, unless there’s other criminal activity or unusual circumstances,” he added.
A federal appeals court recently ruled that the long-standing purchase prohibition did not meet the Supreme Court’s new requirements for gun regulations. The Fifth Circuit determined that the nation’s “history and traditions” do not allow “disarming a sober citizen solely on the basis of his prior drug use.”
Meanwhile, congressional Republicans have been conducting their own investigations into practically every element of Hunter Biden’s business transactions, as well as the Justice Department’s handling of the case.
Two FBI agents who worked on the Hunter Biden investigation testified separately to legislators this week behind closed doors about claims of political meddling in the case. The FBI’s special agent in charge of the Baltimore Field Office, Thomas Sobocinski, and an unidentified agent who served as his No. 2, testified before Congress that Weiss had full authority over the years-long investigation, refuting IRS whistleblower testimony that the Justice Department dragged its feet.
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Source: AP News via Newsbreak