Hunter Biden will not receive “special treatment” after special counsel David Weiss charged him with three felony gun charges.
What is the background?
On Tuesday, Biden’s attorneys asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Christopher Burke to allow Biden to make his initial court appearance by video.
Attorney Abbe Lowell argued the “financial impact on government resources and the logistical burden” of Biden traveling from California to Delaware means he should be allowed to enter his “not guilty” plea remotely. Lowell called the demand a “common-sense request” and said that opposition to it is “puzzling.”
But prosecutors sharply disagreed.
In a response filed on Wednesday, prosecutors argued that “if ‘convenience’ was a legitimate basis to warrant virtual proceedings, every defendant would ask for them in every case.”
“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,” prosecutors said. “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 … and considering recommendations for conditions of release.”
What did Judge Burke rule?
Burke denied Biden’s request.
The judge said he understands why Biden wants to appear by video but said upholding the integrity of the court is more important.
“Although initial appearances in criminal matters are often short in duration, our Court has always considered them to be important,” Burke explained. “In part, that is because the hearing is one of the few occasions in a criminal case when a defendant physically appears in our Court, before a judge — in a setting that helps to emphasize the ‘integrity and solemnity of a federal criminal proceeding[.]’”
In fact, Burke said he cannot remember another instance — aside from during the COVID-19 pandemic — when a defendant was allowed to skip his initial court appearance.
“That has been the case as to defendants of all types, regardless of their location or personal circumstance!” Burke said.
“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 explained. “Any other defendant would be required to attend his or her initial appearance in person. So too here.”
Biden is due in court for his initial appearance and arraignment on Oct. 3 at 10 a.m.
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