In a recent ruling, a judge has decreed that Hunter Biden must be present in person for his arraignment, rejecting his plea to participate via video conference. The decision came after special counsel David Weiss contended that Hunter Biden should be physically mandated to appear in court. Weiss highlighted that Biden did not claim any injury or financial constraints as reasons for his request.
Hunter Biden faces federal indictment on felony gun charges. He is accused of providing misleading statements during a gun purchase and denying illegal drug use. Additionally, he is charged with possessing a firearm while being drug-dependent.
Weiss emphasized the significance of in-person hearings, stating they must bolster public trust by ensuring that defendants are treated uniformly. Shortly after, the court concurred with Weiss, turning down Hunter Biden’s appeal for a virtual appearance.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Christopher Burke acknowledged the arguments presented by Biden, which highlighted the brevity of the hearing and the logistical challenges of traveling. However, Judge Burke stressed the importance of such appearances, noting that they underscore the gravity and integrity of federal criminal proceedings. He further mentioned that the upcoming arraignment would address topics not covered in Biden’s prior arraignment in July, where his plea deal disintegrated. The judge also plans to discuss Biden’s conditions for pre-trial release. The arraignment is slated for October 3rd at 10 a.m.
Earlier in the week, Biden, through his attorney Abbe David Lowell, had submitted a motion to attend the court session via video link. Lowell argued that his client wasn’t seeking any preferential treatment. He further stated that making Biden travel for a brief proceeding would be financially taxing on the government, which provides him with secret service protection. This would also pose logistical challenges in Wilmington, Delaware, where the court is located. Lowell added that Biden would plead not guilty, and there was no reason he couldn’t do so virtually.
In his counter-argument, Weiss stated that barring pandemic conditions, the federal court in Delaware typically holds in-person hearings. He noted that the two cases Biden referenced to support virtual appearances involved defendants who could not travel. Weiss argued that if convenience were a valid reason for virtual proceedings, every defendant would demand them. He also expressed concerns about the limitations of virtual hearings, such as the judge’s inability to accurately gauge the defendant’s physical and emotional state, which could influence pre-trial decisions.
Recalling the previous arraignment, Weiss mentioned that it was far from routine. The plea bargain, which would have seen Biden plead guilty to two tax misdemeanor charges, avoiding a felony gun charge, collapsed when the judge sought clarity on the agreement’s specifics. This led to confusion, resulting in multiple recesses and a deferred decision.
Subsequently, Biden’s former attorney, Christopher Clark, resigned from the case, hinting he might be called as a witness if the plea deal became a trial topic. Three other attorneys also left the team, leaving Lowell as the primary counsel.
Weiss intends to request the court to stipulate conditions for Biden’s pre-trial release, emphasizing the gravity of the felony gun charges. He believes the court should evaluate the defendant in person before deciding on release conditions.
In a “Good Morning America” interview, Lowell expressed confidence that the charges against Biden would be dropped before the trial. He also addressed allegations from House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, who claimed political pressure delayed the charges. Lowell countered that the government had already negotiated a plea deal with Biden, implying the charges shouldn’t have been filed. He also challenged the constitutionality of the gun form in question, asserting that he has a strong defense based on the facts.