Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to an illegal gun possession charge, marking the latest chapter in his troubled life just as his father President Joe Biden accelerates his campaign for reelection next year.
Hunter Biden, 53, arrived in federal court in his family hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, without speaking to waiting reporters.
He entered a not guilty plea to three felony charges stemming from his purchase of a .38-caliber Colt Cobra revolver in 2018 when, by his own admission, he was heavily addicted to drugs and barely in control of his life.
Hunter Biden is charged with two counts of making false statements for claiming on forms required for the gun purchase that he was not using drugs illegally at the time.
He faces a third charge, based on the same statements, that he illegally possessed the gun – which he had for only 11 days in October 2018 – before he got rid of it.
Hunter Biden's multiple legal troubles and controversies – which extend to facing ferocious accusations from Republican politicians that he engaged in corrupt business practices in China and Ukraine – are a constant drag on his father's political standing as he seeks a second term in 2024.
Republicans have opened an impeachment inquiry in Congress on what they claim is a Biden family criminal conspiracy but have provided no evidence that the president did anything wrong.
In response to the constant drip-drip of scandal, Joe Biden has repeatedly said he stands by his son and loves him for his attempts to recover from drug addiction.
Hunter Biden's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, had asked Judge Christopher Burke to allow Biden, who lives in California, to appear by video instead of in person but the request was denied.
"The defendant should not receive any special treatment in this matter," Burke wrote in his ruling.
If convicted, Hunter Biden could in theory face 25 years in prison, though in practice such offences, if not accompanied by other charges, are seldom punished by any jail time.
In July, a plea bargain between Hunter Biden and federal prosecutor David Weiss – which would have erased the gun charges while Biden pleaded guilty to two tax charges and avoided prison – fell apart.
Hunter Biden has not been charged with any crimes related to his foreign business dealings, despite the Republican allegations.
However, Weiss, who was elevated to special counsel for the Hunter Biden probe after the plea deal fell through, says he is still investigating the junior Biden on possible tax charges in addition to the gun possession issue.
Hunter Biden is a Yale-trained lawyer and lobbyist-turned-artist, but his life has been marred by alcoholism and crack cocaine addiction. (AFP)