Hunter Biden to plead guilty to tax crimes, reaches deal on gun charge

By Sarah N. Lynch, Jeff Mason and Tom Hals

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden has agreed to plead guilty to two misdemeanor charges of willfully failing to pay income taxes and to enter into an agreement that could avert a conviction on a gun-related charge, according to a court filing on Tuesday.

The news sparked accusations of favorable treatment for the Democratic president’s son from former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies, who for years have attacked both Bidens.

Their accusations of wrongdoing by Hunter Biden relating to Ukraine and China prompted the investigation by David Weiss – the U.S. attorney in Delaware appointed by Trump – that led to the charges. The two misdemeanor tax charges were Hunter Biden’s first.

The younger Biden has worked as a lobbyist, lawyer, consultant to foreign companies, investment banker and artist, and has publicly detailed his struggles with substance abuse.

The announcement by the Justice Department comes as President Biden is in the middle of a re-election campaign that may pit him again against Trump, the front-runner for the Republican nomination in 2024. As president, Trump asked Chinese and Ukrainian authorities to investigate Hunter Biden’s activities in their countries.

According to court filings, Hunter Biden received taxable income of more than $1.5 million in 2017 and in 2018 but did not pay income tax those years despite owing in excess of $100,000.

He is also charged with unlawfully owning a firearm from roughly Oct. 12 to Oct 23, 2018 when he was using and addicted to a controlled substance, the Justice Department said. For that charge, he entered a pretrial diversion agreement, an alternative to prosecution that is sometimes used to allow defendants to avoid prison time or a criminal conviction.

“It is my understanding that the five-year investigation into Hunter is resolved,” his attorney, Christopher Clark, said in a statement. “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.”

Weiss said the investigation is ongoing, a standard statement in such announcements.

The White House on Tuesday declined to comment on the charges or the deal.

“The President and First Lady love their son and support him as he continues to rebuild his life. We will have no further comment,” spokesperson Ian Sams said in a statement.

Hunter Biden is likely to face a sentencing range of 12-18 months for the tax charges, about half of which could be spent inside a prison cell, according to sentencing expert Tess Lopez.

But the odds he will get sentenced to prison are low, based on the tax loss amount, his status as a first-time offender and his willingness to accept responsibility for his actions.

“He’s not going to prison,” said Michael Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor who now chairs the white-collar practice at the law firm Cole Schotz. “He is facing prison time, but whether or not practically and realistically he goes is very different.”


Hunter Biden disclosed in December 2020 that Weiss’s office was investigating his tax affairs. He denied wrongdoing.

He described in a 2021 memoir dealing with substance abuse issues in his life, including crack cocaine use and alcoholism. He was discharged from the U.S. Navy Reserve in 2014 after testing positive for cocaine, sources said at the time.

The Weiss inquiry initially examined potential violations of tax and money laundering laws in foreign business dealings, principally in China, sources told Reuters.

The investigation headed by Weiss began as early as 2018, according to U.S. media reports. Weiss was asked to stay on in the role, after Trump left the White House and President Biden began, to continue the probe.

The probe followed accusations of influence peddling against Hunter Biden by Trump and others, as well as Trump’s efforts to get Ukrainian officials to investigate the son of the man he saw as his likely 2020 presidential challenger. Those efforts, including a suspension of congressionally approved military aid for Ukraine, led to Trump’s first impeachment.

Republicans on Tuesday roundly criticized the deal as being favorable to the president’s son.

Representative James Comer, the Republican chair of the House of Representatives Oversight Committee, which has been leading House Republicans’ investigations into Biden’s family, called the plea deal “a slap on the wrist” and said it would not deter his panel’s work.

Representative Jamie Raskin, the ranking Democrat on the House oversight panel, accused Republicans in a statement of “wailing about the work” of a Trump-appointed attorney.

“This development reflects the Justice Department’s continued institutional independence in following the evidence of actual crimes and enforcing the rule of law even in the face of constant criticism and heckling by my GOP colleagues who think that the system of justice should only follow their partisan wishes,” Raskin said about the charges.

Trump, who was recently indicted on federal criminal charges that he unlawfully kept national-security documents when he left office, also criticized the deal.

“Wow! 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!” he said on his Truth Social platform.

President Biden has two surviving children, Hunter Biden and daughter Ashley Biden. His son Beau Biden died in 2015 of cancer and his daughter Naomi Biden died as an infant after a car accident that also killed Joe Biden’s first wife.

Hunter Biden appears to be the first child of a sitting president to be indicted, according to Aaron Crawford, who specializes in presidential history at the University of Tennessee.

Crawford said the family of several presidents were ensnared in scandals, including George H.W. Bush’s son Neil, who directed a failed savings and loan, and Richard Nixon’s brother Don, who was rescued from business failures by wealthy businessman Howard Hughes.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Jeff Mason in Washington and Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt, Susan Heavey, Moira Warburton and Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Doina Chiacu, Heather Timmons and Jonathan Oatis)