Hunter Biden pleads not guilty to tax fraud charges

By Chris Kirkham

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty on Thursday in federal court in Los Angeles to tax charges stemming from business dealings that have also prompted an impeachment probe of his father.

Hunter Biden, 53, stands criminally accused of failing to pay $1.4 million in taxes between 2016 and 2019, while spending millions of dollars on drugs, escorts, exotic cars and other high-ticket items.

He faces up to 17 years in prison if convicted.

Wearing a navy blue suit and tie, he responded “not guilty” when U.S. District Judge Mark Scarsi asked how he would plead in the case.

Scarsi set a trial date of June 20.

Biden did not address news crews or protesters waiting outside the courthouse after the hearing. A federal motorcade left the building via a rear exit.

Biden’s lawyer Abbe Lowell has said his client had paid his back taxes and is being persecuted because of his famous last name.

The president’s son, who has publicly discussed his substance abuse, has never held a position in the White House or on his father’s campaign.

He also has pleaded not guilty in a separate federal case in Delaware in which he is charged with lying about his illegal drug use when he bought a gun. Those charges carry up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Both cases were brought by federal prosecutor David Weiss, who has been investigating him since 2019 and was last year elevated to the status of special prosecutor. A federal judge rejected a proposed plea deal last summer. The Justice Department has said the investigation into Hunter Biden is ongoing.

U.S. House of Representatives Republicans are pushing to hold Hunter Biden in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify behind closed doors in their impeachment inquiry of his father. That has the potential to trigger more criminal charges.

Hunter Biden has offered to testify in public in the probe, but lawmakers rebuffed him. He caused a ruckus on Capitol Hill on Wednesday when he unexpectedly showed up at a House hearing where lawmakers were considering the contempt charges.

Republican investigators have focused on Hunter Biden’s work for businesses in Ukraine and China while his father served as U.S. vice president from 2009 to 2017. So far they have turned up no evidence of wrongdoing by the elder Biden, even as they have highlighted his son’s struggles with substance abuse.

In the tax case, prosecutors have said he earned more than $7 million between 2016 and 2019, including $2.3 million from his position on the board of directors of Burisma, a Ukrainian industrial conglomerate. He also served on the board of CEFC China Energy Co Ltd, a Chinese energy conglomerate.

A Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Wednesday found that 44% of U.S. adults think the prosecution of Hunter Biden is politically motivated, while 33% do not. At the same time, 56% think he is receiving favorable treatment from prosecutors.

(Additional reporting by Kanishka Singh, Writing by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Scott Malone, Will Dunham and Deepa Babington)