Following his recent criminal indictment on a trio of federal felony gun charges, attorneys for Hunter Biden asked a federal judge to allow him to appear "by video conference" for an initial hearing and arraignment scheduled for Oct. 3.
That request was opposed by Special Counsel David Weiss, and now a federal magistrate judge in Delaware has ruled that Biden must attend the court hearing in person, according to CBS News.
The president's son faces the prospect of up to 25 years in prison if convicted of the three charges against him, which include two counts of making false statements and one count of being an unlawful possessor of a firearm in relation to his lying about his illicit drug use on a federal gun purchase form in 2018.
Axios reported this week that Biden's lead defense attorney, Abbe Lowell, sent a letter to U.S. Magistrate Judge Christopher Burke to make the request for a video conference hearing for his client's initial appearance in court on this new matter.
The letter asserted that Biden intended to plead not guilty in what would likely be a brief hearing, that he already understood the charges against him and waived a reading of the indictment, and that he wasn't worried about his rights being violated by a virtual hearing.
Lowell also argued that Biden appearing in person would entail a substantial logistical undertaking to transport him and his Secret Service detail cross-country from California to Delaware, as well as that local roadways and traffic in Wilmington's downtown would need to be disrupted and blocked off for security purposes.
The attorney further stated that Biden was "not seeking any special treatment" and would appear in person if his attendance was deemed necessary.
According to Fox News, Special Counsel Weiss countered that request with a motion in opposition to the request for a video conference hearing and said, "Fifteen months ago, the Court’s standing order authorizing virtual proceedings during the pandemic expired. Since its expiration on June 21, 2022, the Court has almost always held in-person initial appearances and arraignments for defendants. This defendant should be treated no differently."
"An in-person hearing is important to promote the public’s confidence that the defendant is being treated consistently with other defendants in this District and in other Districts," Weiss wrote, and continued, "Although the government anticipates this proceeding should be straightforward since the parties have not reached an agreement to resolve this matter, we believe an in-person proceeding may be more conducive to addressing any unforeseen issues that arise."
"Given the serious felony gun charges at issue in this case, this Court should have an opportunity to assess the defendant in a live setting when discharging its obligations under 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f) and (g), and considering recommendations for conditions of release. Accordingly, the government opposes the defendant’s request for a virtual proceeding," he concluded.
CBS News reported that Judge Burke appears to have sided with Special Counsel Weiss in that he issued an order on Wednesday that directed Biden to make an in-person appearance at the Oct. 3 hearing and denied the request for a virtual video conference.
"The Court understands Defendant's point that the initial appearance (as well as the arraignment, which will occur during the same hearing) will not likely be lengthy, and that there will be some amount of logistical inconvenience for the Defendant and the United States Secret Service if the hearing is held in person, as opposed to by video conference," the judge said in the order.
That said, Burke noted how important initial appearances are for a variety of reasons and that, except for during the pandemic and a few other non-similar situations, he couldn't recall in his 12 years on the bench "ever having conducted an initial appearance other than in person. That has been the case as to defendants of all types, regardless of their location or personal circumstance."
"In the end, the Court agrees with both Defendant, and the Government, that Defendant should not receive special treatment in this matter -- absent some unusual circumstance, he should be treated just as would any other defendant in our Court," the judge concluded. "Any other defendant would be required to attend his or her initial appearance in person. So too here."