(CN) — Marking the first prosecution of a child of a sitting president, Hunter Biden was indicted Thursday on felony gun charges following the collapse of his plea deal this summer.
The 53-year-old’s Delaware indictment sprung from his purchase of a Colt Cobra handgun while using illicit narcotics in 2018.
Open about his struggles, Biden later admitted in his 2021 book “Beautiful Things” that he was abusing crack cocaine during this time but that he wasn’t using drugs at the time of purchase of the gun.
The memoir admission led to the charges on two counts of violating a federal law that mandates gun buyers attest they aren’t drug users or addicted to illegal drugs at time of purchase. The third count involves possession of a firearm as an unlawful drug user.
U.S. Attorney for the District of Delaware David Weiss, a Donald Trump appointee, filed the indictment.
Biden initially disclosed that Weiss was investigating him for tax misdemeanors in December 2020. As a result, President Joe Biden, 80, did not opt to remove Weiss from his post after his election to avoid the appearance he was interfering in his son’s then-ongoing investigation.
While the younger Biden had struck a plea deal with federal prosecutors for both the tax and gun crimes this past June, the agreement imploded over the next few months. The plea would have allowed him to plead guilty to two counts of failing to file and pay federal income taxes on time in 2017 and 2018 and enter a pretrial diversion program that would have permitted the Justice Department to charge Biden with purchasing the gun but not prosecute him for it.
U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika, however, derailed the deal in July. The Trump appointee sought more clarity on the terms of the agreement for the president’s son.
Biden was in court ostensibly to plead guilty, but the hearing was quickly and surprisingly thrown off course over terms that confused the judge and led to disagreements between the prosecution and defense. Biden then pleaded not guilty in the District of Delaware to two charges of failing to pay on more than $1.5 million annually in federal income taxes on time in 2017 and 2018, a sum that has since been repaid.
Prosecutors planned to recommend a sentence of probation on the tax charges, which each carry a maximum sentence of 12 months in prison. Court documents say Biden owed more than $100,000 in income tax that wasn’t paid on time.
Following this, the Justice Department announced that Weiss had been appointed as special counsel overseeing the Hunter Biden investigation. The move expanded Weiss’ jurisdiction and allowed him to take a closer look at the younger Biden’s international business dealings and press charges against him in any federal court.
Weiss is now expected to refile Biden’s misdemeanor tax charges, originally filed in Delaware, in either California or Washington, where the misdemeanors occurred.
Biden’s charges indicate that courtroom proceedings will play a large role in the 2024 presidential election, which would be the first where the son of a sitting president faces a criminal trial while his father campaigns for reelection. At the same time, former President Donald Trump, 77, who is considered President Biden's top opponent in 2024, will be facing four upcoming criminal trials of his own — another first for a presidential candidate.
Biden’s indictment comes just two days after House Republicans, who hold a slim majority, opened a formal impeachment inquiry of President Biden related to his son’s foreign business. While they have testimony that the president occasionally joined calls with his son’s business associates, they have yet to confirm that he benefited personally.
Investigating Hunter Biden’s drug use and finances, as well as international business relations, has long been a pursuit of Republican lawmakers, proving to be a unifying goal across the party. Hunter Biden is also currently under investigation for his role on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma. The son of the president has worked as a lobbyist, lawyer and investment banker — but never worked on his father’s campaign or held a post at the White House.
An attorney for Hunter Biden did not respond immediately to a request for comment on the indictment Thursday.Follow @@lexandrajones
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