A judge on Wednesday denied a request by President Joe Biden’s son Hunter to have his initial court appearance and arraignment take place via video conference following his indictment on federal charges related to fire arms.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Christopher Burke sided with prosecutors, saying all defendants “regardless of where they live or their personal circumstances” were required to appear in person at their first court appearance. court, with the exception of years when the coronavirus pandemic was at its peak.
“Except during the urgent circumstances of the COVID crisis (when the Court was proceeding under the auspices of the now-expired CARES Act Standing Order), in 12 years as a Justice of this Court, the undersigned cannot recall to have ever conducted an initial investigation. appearance other than in person,” Burke wrote.
Burke added that Biden should not receive any special treatment.
“Any other defendants would be required to attend their initial appearance in person,” Burke wrote. “Here too.”
The hearing is scheduled for October 3 in Delaware.
Earlier this week, Hunter Biden’s lawyer, Father David Lowell, argued that his client did not need to appear in court, citing the strain his trip would place on the government given the short duration of the audience. The president’s son resides in California.
Biden seeks to “minimize an unnecessary burden on government resources and disruption to the courthouse and downtown areas when a person protected by the Secret Service flies across the country and then must be transported to and from a downtown,” Lowell wrote.
Lowell also said Biden would plead not guilty, adding that “there’s no reason why he can’t say those two words over video conference.”
But prosecutors opposed the request.
“If ‘convenience’ were a legitimate basis for justifying virtual proceedings, every defendant would request them in every case,” special counsel David Weiss wrote in a letter to Burke on Wednesday.
Weiss added that the failed plea deal at a hearing earlier this summer shows why an in-person proceeding might be more “conducive” to resolving unforeseen issues.
“The previous arraignment in this case was anything but routine as the defendant and his former attorney were not prepared to answer the Court’s questions,” they said.
In July, U.S. District Court Judge Maryellen Noreika refused to sign a deal Biden reached with prosecutors after Noreika expressed concerns about parts of the deal. As part of the deal, Biden would have pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges for failure to pay taxes, and would have participated in a diversion program instead of pleading guilty to possessing a firearm as a drug user recognized.
Following the failed plea deal, Attorney General Merrick Garland elevated Weiss, who is leading the Justice Department’s investigation into Hunter Biden, to special counsel status.
Hunter Biden was indicted on three gun-related charges last week. Two of them involve Biden allegedly submitting a form falsely saying he was not using illegal narcotics when he purchased a Colt Cobra revolver in 2018, and another involves him allegedly owning that firearm while using narcotics.
Garland on Wednesday rejected GOP suggestions that the DOJ went soft on Biden because he was the president’s son.
He added that any decision in this matter rests with Weiss.
“I did not intentionally involve myself in the facts of the case, not because I am trying to evade my responsibilities, but because I am trying to pursue my responsibilities,” Garland said during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee.