US President Joe Biden’s son Hunter has entered a not guilty plea to three firearms-related charges, moving the case closer to a potential trial ahead of the 2024 elections as his father seeks re-election.
The 53-year-old appeared in court in the eastern state of Delaware on Tuesday to enter a plea to the federal charges after a plea deal that would have avoided lengthy legal proceedings failed to move forward.
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US Magistrate Judge Christopher Burke has said the president’s son, whose legal issues and history of scandals are a favourite target of Republican lawmakers, should receive “no special treatment”.
The charges revolve around an allegation that Hunter Biden lied about his history of drug use on a form to buy a firearm in October 2018. A plea deal that would have swiftly concluded the criminal proceedings fell apart over the summer.
The president’s son has become a lightning rod for criticism from Republican politicians and conservative media figures who have alleged, with little evidence, that the elder Biden sits at the centre of a vast network of corrupt business activities.
Hunter Biden has not been charged with any crimes connected to his foreign business activities and denies any wrongdoing.
But the prospect of a trial during the period running up to the November 2024 elections is sure to galvanise such efforts by Republicans, who are currently mounting an impeachment inquiry into the president.
Hunter faces two counts of making false statements and one of illegal gun possession, crimes punishable by up to 25 years in prison.
Under the aborted plea deal, which typically requires an admission of guilt in exchange for more lenient sentencing, Hunter Biden would have pleaded guilty and served probation instead of jail time on misdemeanour tax charges and avoided prosecution on the gun charges if he avoided additional trouble with the law for a period of two years.
The president’s son has never held public office and has long struggled with issues of drug addiction, including during the period in which he purchased the .38-caliber Colt Cobra revolver in 2018.