The allegations against President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden are rarely pursued.
Hunter Biden will plead guilty to two misdemeanor charges of neglecting to pay taxes, which he later reimbursed, under a plea agreement agreed with the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Delaware, which Donald Trump’s appointment David Weiss leads.
Biden also faces a felony gun charge — possession of a handgun by a person who is an “unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance” — but that is expected to be dismissed if he meets specific criteria under the plea agreement.
The federal firearms charge, which makes it illegal for a dr*g addict to possess a weapon, is a rarely utilized provision recently used as a catch-all charge against white supremacists.
Tax charges, like weapons charges, are rarely pursued against first-time offenders and even less frequently result in Jail time. Former FBI general counsel and NBC News contributor Andrew Weissmann tweeted on Tuesday. “This is, if anything harsh, not lenient,” he wrote.
BREAKING HUNTER BIDEN: context- first time tax offenders like this rarely get prosecuted and even rarer to get jail time. And false gun applications sadly also almost never get prosecuted or jail time. So this is if anything harsh, not lenient. https://t.co/FVhtCKQFaB
— Andrew Weissmann 🌻 (@AWeissmann_) June 20, 2023
Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, agreed. “It insults the intelligence of the American people to compare misdemeanor tax charges to a scheme to steal Top Secret documents and obstruct justice when the government asked for them back,” he tweeted, comparing Hunter Biden’s charges to former President Donald Trump’s recent federal indictment. “If anything, Hunter Biden was treated harshly — those crimes are rarely charged.”
It insults the intelligence of the American people to compare misdemeanor tax charges to a scheme to steal Top Secret documents and obstruct justice when the government asked for them back.
If anything, Hunter Biden was treated harshly — those crimes are rarely charged. https://t.co/lSVzEdExn9
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) June 20, 2023
The gun charge itself is being challenged in court. A federal appeals court ruled in June that the government cannot prohibit those convicted of nonviolent crimes from possessing a weapon, and a federal court in Texas recently ruled that the prohibition on drug users having weapons violates the Second Amendment, following a significant Supreme Court case last year that expanded gun rights.
When brought, the charge is frequently employed in high-profile instances where the underlying conduct does not appear to violate any clear federal criminal statute.
The mother of a 6-year-old kid who shot his teacher in Newport News, Virginia, pled guilty last week to the charge of having a handgun while under the influence of marijuana and making a false statement.
In other circumstances, the charge has resulted in a significant prison term. A 23-year-old man from Waterloo, Iowa, was recently sentenced to nearly five years in federal prison for drug possession as a user, while another 23-year-old man from Lincoln, Nebraska, received three years.
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Other punishments have been less severe: a man caught in Vermont on a burglary call in May 2022 received a sentence of time served in March 2023. (Of course, there have been other recent cases, but those resulting in nonsubstantial penalties are less likely to be cited by US Attorney’s Offices in press releases.)
The charge has also lately been used against white supremacists when their actions did not clearly violate any other criminal legislation, such as when a white supremacist was detained in Washington, D.C., and discovered with a stash of guns after his brother committed himself.
In that case, a 30-year federal public defender stated that he “never had a case in which the government went forward” with the addict-in-possession accusation. The charge was deemed odd by a judge. After less than a year in pr!son, the white supremacist was sentenced to time served.
The addict-in-possession charge is used “sparingly,” according to Chuck Rosenberg, a former top federal prosecutor and acting administrator of the United States Dr*g Enforcement Administration and current NBC News legal analyst, but that does not mean it was misused in Hunter Biden’s case, as each case must be evaluated on its own merits.
Paul Butler, an NBC News legal analyst and former federal prosecutor said on MSNBC on Tuesday that the settlement reached by Hunter Biden was a reasonable conclusion for the president’s son but not the “sweetheart deal” that Trump and his allies have portrayed it out to be.
While the plea bargain states that prosecutors will suggest probation, the federal judge who sentenced Hunter Biden is not obligated by that agreement and may eventually decide that the offense justifies incarceration. The matter has yet to be scheduled in court.
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