Hunter, the son of US President Joe Biden, entered a not-guilty plea to tax offenses in a federal court located in California. His nine criminal charges from last month included tax evasion, filing false tax returns in 2018, and not paying his taxes on time from 2016 to 2019.
If found guilty of these charges, Mr. Biden might spend up to 17 years behind bars. Along with these federal charges, he has already entered a not-guilty plea to felonies involving firearms. At a downtown Los Angeles courtroom on Thursday afternoon, where a sea of cameras had gathered outside and US Secret Service agents had earlier conducted a security sweep, Mr. Biden, 53, made his first appearance in the tax case.
Through a back door, he avoided the press and sat motionless at the defense desk between his attorneys. He then stood while his attorney pleaded not guilty on his behalf.
The father of four consented to be released without being placed under arrest under several restrictions, such as not being allowed to purchase firearms, use drugs, drink alcohol, or work. The judge threatened to issue an arrest warrant for the president’s son and put him in jail if he disobeyed the conditions of his release.
The 30-minute arraignment marked the most recent phase of federal prosecutors’ five-year probe into Mr. Biden’s financial affairs. He seemed to be on the verge of reaching a plea agreement over the summer, which would have spared him from jail time in exchange for admitting guilt about his tax offenses, going through drug treatment, and having his gun offenses monitored for two years.
However, the agreement fell apart when a judge examined it closely, drawing harsh criticism from Republicans who saw it as a “sweetheart deal”. This led to Mr. Biden’s September indictment in Delaware on three counts about his unlawful acquisition of a firearm in 2018.
The 56-page charge sheet, submitted against Mr. Biden in December about his tax charges, states that he earned over $7 million (£5.5 million) in gross income from business transactions in Ukraine and connections from Romania and China between 2016 and 2020.
According to the prosecution, Mr. Biden “wilfully” neglected to file or pay his taxes with the Internal Revenue Service between 2016 and 2019, preferring to use the funds for extravagant personal expenses.
“Between 2016 and Oct 15, 2020, the defendant spent this money on drugs, escorts and girlfriends, luxury hotels and rental properties, peculiar cars, clothing, and other items of a personal nature, in short, everything but his taxes,” according to the paperwork.
The tax and gun charges relate to a time in Mr. Biden’s life when he struggled with alcohol and crack cocaine addiction. He revealed in his autobiography Beautiful Things that he turned to drugs and alcohol to help him deal with the loss of his older brother Beau to brain cancer in 2015. Mr. Biden claims that he has since sobered up. Additionally, he has paid off all of his tax obligations, including penalties and interest, primarily thanks to loans from his close friend and entertainment lawyer Kevin Morris of Los Angeles.
However, Mr. Biden’s most recent indictment poses a new obstacle for his father, who plans to run for president again later this year. Due to the breakdown of his plea agreement, it is almost a given that Mr. Biden will go through a criminal trial while running for president in 2024.
Republicans in Congress are looking into the younger Biden’s finances as part of their investigation into the president’s impeachment. During Joe Biden’s vice presidency, they have claimed, Mr. Biden and his family improperly benefited from his father’s “brand”. The investigation has not yet produced proof that the president is guilty of a crime.
Two Republican-led panels decided on Wednesday to suggest that Mr. Biden be found in contempt of Congress for his refusal to provide testimony in private during their impeachment investigation.
However, when the president’s son and his primary defense attorney, Abbe Lowell, showed up as the House oversight committee was starting to debate the contempt resolution, it completely disorganized the room.
After exiting the room, Mr. Lowell told reporters, “Hunter Biden was and is a private citizen.” “Despite this, Republicans have sought to use him as a surrogate to attack his father.”
In an MSNBC interview airing on Thursday morning, First Lady Jill Biden said: “I think what they are doing to Hunter is cruel, and I’m proud of how Hunter has reconstructed his life after addiction.”