WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden’s son Hunter has reached a deal with federal prosecutors on charges he failed to pay federal income tax and illegally possessed a weapon, according to a letter in US District Court in Delaware, and will plead guilty to tax offences but likely avoid time behind bars.
Hunter Biden will plead guilty to the misdemeanor tax offenses as part of the agreement made public on Tuesday. The agreement will spare him prosecution on a charge of illegally possessing a firearm as a drug user if he adheres to conditions set by prosecutors. It is somewhat unusual to resolve a federal criminal case at the same time the charges are filed in court, though it is not totally unheard of.
The deal ends a long-running Justice Department investigation into Biden’s second son, who has acknowledged struggling with addiction following the 2015 death of his brother Beau Biden.
It also averts a trial that would have generated days or weeks or distracting headlines for a White House that has strenuously sought to keep its distance from the Justice Department.
A person familiar with the investigation said the Justice Department would recommend probation for the tax charges, meaning Hunter Biden will not face time behind bars. But the decision to go along with any deal is up to the judge. The person was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.
Christopher Clark, a lawyer for Hunter Biden, said in a statement that it was his understanding that the five-year investigation had now been resolved.
“I know Hunter believes it is important to take responsibility for these mistakes he made during a period of turmoil and addiction in his life,” Clark said. “He looks forward to continuing his recovery and moving forward.”
The news comes as congressional Republicans pursue their own investigations into nearly every facet of Hunter Biden’s business dealings, including examining foreign payments and other aspects of his finances. It also comes days after a 37-count indictment came down against former President Donald Trump for mishandling classified documents on his Florida estate, another case with even more dramatic political implications.
Joe Biden has also faced questions about his son’s business dealings and drug addiction.
“The President and First Lady love their son and support him as he continues to rebuild his life,” the White House counsel’s office said in a statement.
The gun charge states that Hunter Biden possessed a handgun, a Colt Cobra 38 special, despite knowing he was a drug user for 11 days in October 2018. The count carries a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison, but the Justice Department said Hunter Biden had reached a pretrial agreement on that charge. Full details were not immediately disclosed.
The misdemeanor tax crimes that the younger Biden is set to plead guilty to are far more limited in scope than the allegations that have been pursued for years by congressional Republicans, whose inquires include examining foreign payments and other aspects of his finances.
The agreement comes as the Justice Department pursues perhaps the most consequential case in its history against Trump, the first former president to face federal criminal charges.
That indictment has already brought an onslaught of criticism from Republicans, accusations of “politicisation” of the Justice Department and a renewed crescendo of questions about Hunter Biden’s business dealings.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has said the Trump charges came from a special counsel he appointed specifically so the investigation would remain independent. The Hunter Biden charges, meanwhile, were filed by the US attorney for Delaware, Trump appointee David Weiss.
The Justice Department investigation burst into public view in December 2020, one month after the presidential election, when Hunter Biden revealed that he had received a subpoena as part of the department’s scrutiny of his taxes. The subpoena sought information on the younger Biden’s business dealings with a number of entities, including Burisma, a Ukraine gas company on whose board he sat.
Hunter Biden said in a statement at the time that he was “confident that a professional and objective review of these matters will demonstrate that I handled my affairs legally and appropriately, including with the benefit of professional tax advisers.”