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Hunter Biden agrees to plead guilty in tax case and avoid prosecution on gun charge

Hunter Biden leaves after President Joe Biden awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 17 people during a White House ceremony on July 7, 2022.
Susan Walsh
Hunter Biden leaves after President Joe Biden awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 17 people during a White House ceremony on July 7, 2022.

Updated June 20, 2023 at 1:28 PM ET

Hunter Biden, the surviving son of the president, has been charged with federal offenses related to his taxes and business dealings, the U.S. Justice Department said Tuesday.

The younger Biden has agreed to plead guilty to two misdemeanor offenses related to his filing of federal income taxes. Federal authorities also charged him with a felony firearm offense, for which he agreed to enter a pretrial diversion agreement that allows him to avoid prosecution.

According to David Weiss, the Delaware U.S. attorney, Biden did not pay federal income taxes for either 2017 or 2018, despite owing more than $100,000 in taxes each year.

Additionally, in October 2018 Biden possessed a firearm despite knowing he was an unlawful user of and addicted to a controlled substance, Weiss' office said.

If convicted, Hunter Biden faces a maximum penalty of 12 months in prison on each of the tax charges and a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison on the firearm charge, but Weiss' office noted that actual sentences determined by judges are typically less than the maximums. A source familiar with the deal said the Justice Department had agreed to recommend probation on the tax charges but a judge will make the ultimate decision.

Weiss' office added that the investigation is ongoing, though Chris Clark, Biden's attorney, said in a statement: "With the announcement of two agreements between my client, Hunter Biden, and the Unites States Attorney's Office for the District of Delaware, it is my understanding that the five-year investigation into Hunter is resolved."

Clark added: "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. He looks forward to continuing his recovery and moving forward."

The White House declined comment on the charges.

"The president and first lady love their son and support him as he continues to rebuild his life. We will have no further comment," said Ian Sams, a White House spokesman, in a statement.

The move follows a lengthy investigation by Weiss in Delaware, where the Biden family has established a political dynasty. Joe Biden served as a U.S. senator for 36 years, before he became vice president in 2009, and his late son Beau worked as attorney general there. (Beau died in 2015.)

Weiss, the top prosecutor in the state, is one of just two U.S. attorneys who stayed on the job at the end of the Trump years, to continue to oversee the Hunter Biden probe. Republicans in Congress had pressed the Justice Department to name a special prosecutor in the case, but federal authorities resisted that idea, arguing that Weiss and his team had been working smoothly and free from political interference.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has told Congress that Weiss had "full authority" to make decisions in the probe.

A grand jury in Delaware has been hearing from witnesses close to Hunter Biden for months. Biden's legal team had said publicly that he faced investigation on his tax practices and other business interests overseas.

At the same time of some of the conduct at issue in the investigation, Hunter Biden struggled with alcohol and drug addictions and a messy personal life.

"Everybody has trauma," Hunter Biden told the New Yorker magazine in 2019. "There's addiction in every family. I was in that darkness. I was in that tunnel—it's a never-ending tunnel. You don't get rid of it. You figure out how to deal with it."

Republicans were quick to criticize the news Tuesday, seeing unfair treatment for Biden soon after former President Donald Trump was arraigned on federal charges related to his handling of classified documents.

Trump wrote on his social media site Truth Social: "The corrupt Biden DOJ just cleared up hundreds of years of criminal liability by giving Hunter Biden a mere 'traffic ticket.' Our system is BROKEN!"

House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer, a Kentucky Republican who is leading an ongoing investigation into Hunter Biden accusing him of influence peddling, released a statement Tuesday saying that the plea agreement reveals a "two-tiered system of justice."

And Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio, tweeted about a "double standard of justice."

Allies of Hunter Biden, however, pointed to data suggesting it is rare for the Justice Department to bring a weapons charge against a nonviolent offender absent other patterns of lawbreaking, especially since the Supreme Court upended gun regulations in a landmark case last year.

They added that Biden's back taxes had been paid "in full" more than two years ago.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.

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