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Hunter Biden pleads not guilty to federal gun charges

Biden was arraigned after a plea deal fell apart in the same courthouse.
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WILMINGTON, Del.— Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty to three firearms charges at his arraignment Tuesday in federal court in Delaware amid a high-profile legal battle that has pitted the president’s son against his Justice Department as the 2024 presidential campaign gets underway.

After 25 minutes of discussion, Biden's attorney, Abbe Lowell, entered the plea on his behalf. Lowell said the defense would make a number of motions in a case that the president's son had months ago hoped to put behind him, including motions concerning the constitutionality of the charge related to his purchase of a handgun. Lowell also told the court to expect a request for an evidentiary hearing ahead of the judge's Nov. 3 deadline for motions.

Hunter Biden, 53, the son of President Joe Biden, said he understood the nature of the charges, barely blinking before he responded to the judge, "Yes, your honor."

Absent from the hearing were the tensions that erupted at the younger Biden's appearance before a different judge overseeing the case in July, when he had expected to finalize a plea deal. This time, he embarked on a new phase of legal peril that could bring further charges alleging tax crimes.

Wearing a gray suit, Biden spoke with his attorneys in muffled tones and barely glanced around the room. He left the hearing through a side door.

Biden was denied a request to appear by video, with a magistrate judge siding with government prosecutors to say he “should not receive special treatment in this matter.”

Biden arrived in the courtroom shortly before 10 a.m. ET accompanied by his lawyers. The hearing lasted less than 30 minutes. The judge reiterated Biden's conditions for release and said he would be subject to random testing as he refrains from drugs and alcohol. He has been tested already a number of times, the judge said.

The case has placed Joe Biden’s family in the spotlight ahead of the 2024 presidential election, with scrutiny of his son intensifying after his indictment by a special counsel and with the case unfolding against the backdrop of his father’s campaign. 

Nearly two months after a deal with prosecutors fell apart in a dramatic courtroom scene, Hunter Biden was indicted last month in federal court on three counts tied to his possession of a firearm while he was using illegal drugs. 

Two counts accuse him of having lied on a federal form about his use of narcotics when he bought a Colt Cobra revolver in Delaware in October 2018. The third count claims he possessed a gun while he was using a narcotic.

Still open is a yearslong inquiry into allegations that he evaded taxes.

In the original case, charged in June, a joint filing with prosecutors said Biden had the gun for 11 days, during which “he purchased and used crack cocaine regularly.” The firearm was “subsequently discarded in a trashcan outside a supermarket in Greenville, Delaware,” according to the filing. 

The initial plea deal in which Biden agreed to a deferral program on a single gun count collapsed in open court as U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, questioned the terms of the agreement.  

Under the terms of the deal, Biden would have pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges in return for prosecutors' recommending probation, while a separate felony gun charge would have been dropped as part of a two-year diversion program.

After the judge asked both parties to return with more information, Biden pleaded not guilty. Talks between his team and prosecutors then fell apart, extinguishing the possibility of a deal. He later reshuffled his legal team, elevating Lowell. 

Lowell said Biden plans to fight the gun charges, which he argues are not constitutional. He said Tuesday that that would be among several motions the defense files "that won't be a surprise."

His team has lately gone on offense, having filed a barrage of separate lawsuits against the IRS, Rudy Giuliani and former Trump aide Garrett Ziegler, who he claims violated privacy and computer fraud laws. 

Charges linked to Biden’s taxes could be filed within the coming month in Washington, D.C., or California, where he has been a resident in recent years.

The Justice Department has also undertaken the unprecedented move of indicting a former president, Trump, in two separate cases.

In Washington, House Republicans continue to seek answers about whether the Justice Department granted Biden favorable treatment as it investigated him. Republicans have also launched an impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden, which is expected to probe his son’s business dealings as they search for evidence of wrongdoing.

The White House has denied any involvement by the president in the Justice Department’s case or his son’s business affairs.