Judge says Hunter Biden has to appear in person for arraignment on gun charges

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A federal magistrate judge has denied Hunter Biden’s request to appear virtually for his first court hearing in the federal gun case against him and set his arraignment for October 3.

The initial court appearance and arraignment for President Joe Biden’s son will be before Magistrate Judge Christopher J. Burke.

“In the end, the Court agrees with both Defendant … and the Government … that Defendant should not receive special treatment in this matter – absent some unusual circumstance, he should be treated just as would any other defendant in our Court. Any other defendant would be required to attend his or her initial appearance in person. So too here,” the judge wrote.

Earlier Wednesday, special counsel David Weiss argued Hunter Biden should be required to attend in person to “promote the public’s confidence” that the president’s son is not receiving special treatment.

Weiss’s office noted unexpected turn of events at his plea hearing in July.

“An in-person hearing is important to promote the public’s confidence that the defendant is being treated consistently with other defendants in this District and in other Districts,” Weiss’ team wrote in a letter to the federal magistrate judge on Wednesday.

“Moreover, the previous arraignment held in connection with this matter was anything but routine because the defendant and his previous attorney were not prepared to answer the Court’s questions,” the special counsel added.

Prosecutors also cited former President Donald Trump’s recent in-person initial appearances and arraignments in multiple jurisdictions as an example for the need to promote public confidence that Hunter Biden would not be treated differently than others, even those protected by the US Secret Service. Hunter Biden’s lawyers pointed to the burden on government resources for an in-person appearance, given he has Secret Service protection.

“During the last few months, the United States Secret Service has coordinated with the United States Marshals Service and court personnel on multiple occasions and in multiple jurisdictions to provide protective services in connection with initial appearances and arraignments,” prosecutors wrote.

Biden appeared in federal court in Delaware in July with plans to plead guilty to two tax misdemeanor charges and enter an agreement to avoid prosecution on a gun possession charge. The deal fell apart under scrutiny from another federal judge, who had taken several recesses to allow the attorneys to regroup and see if they could resolve disagreements. Ultimately, that judge was not prepared to sign off on the arrangements.

Given the seriousness of the felony gun charges, prosecutors say the magistrate judge should assess Biden in person before deciding his conditions of release.

Biden’s attorneys said he is going to plead not guilty to three felony gun charges, including lying on an ATF form that he wasn’t using or addicted to drugs at the time of the October 2018 purchase and possession of the gun while using or being addicted to an illegal drug.

Burke initially scheduled the arraignment for September 26, but subsequently changed the date.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

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