Federal gun charges are just the latest blow in a litany of legal and personal setbacks for Hunter Biden, whose status as son of the US president masks a tragic and troubled life.
The accusations Thursday that he broke the law in purchasing a firearm in 2018 while addicted to crack cocaine reinforces Hunter Biden's reputation as a magnet for lurid activities now haunting President Joe Biden as he seeks re-election.
Hunter Biden, 53, has written movingly of his attempts to put his past behind him, but the gun charges and a separate, highly politicized push by Republicans to impeach his father make that nearly impossible.
"Today's charges against Hunter Biden are a very small start," Republican Representative James Comer wrote on the X social media site, demanding that authorities probe what he called "everyone involved in the fraud schemes and influence peddling."
If some see Hunter as the family black sheep, his father has stuck by him, publicly praising his battle against addiction.
- Tragedy and addiction -
Hunter's early childhood was shadowed by terrible tragedy -- the 1972 car crash that killed his mother and infant sister. Hunter, who was three at the time, and his older brother Beau were pulled from the wreckage alive but injured.
Growing up, Hunter -- the son of an ambitious senator -- would find easy access to the American elite.
A graduate of Yale Law School, Hunter shuffled between jobs in government, banking and lobbying before landing in a family-controlled hedge fund and starting his own international business consultancy in the late 2000s.
But his life was marred by alcoholism, drug addiction, and stints in rehabilitation. And then in 2015, Beau's death at age 46 pushed him over the edge.
Beau had built a sterling reputation in the military and was a rising political force in his home state of Delaware when felled by brain cancer.
Joe Biden frequently opens up about the devastating impact of losing a son whom many saw as a natural heir to the family's political capital.
The blow to Hunter was, if anything, more severe.
Hunter wrote in his memoir that after Beau's death his drug use spiraled, reaching a nadir in 2017 near the end of his father's second term as vice president to Barack Obama.
His marriage fell apart and he lost custody of his three daughters.
He became romantically entangled with Beau's widow, fathered a daughter with a woman in Arkansas who later sued for child support, and then saw his files, emails and tawdry personal photos from his laptop computer made public by his father's enemies.
He came under investigation by the Justice Department over millions of dollars he earned from overseas investments.
But if Joe Biden continues to talk of Beau as the favored son, he has also frequently come to Hunter's defense. He responded to taunts from Donald Trump during their 2020 election battle, saying: "My son, like a lot people ... had a drug problem.
"He's overtaken it, he's fixed it, he's worked on it. And I'm proud of him. I'm proud of my son," he said.
- 'Never judged me' -
In his 2020 memoir "Beautiful Things," Hunter Biden recounted his days chugging vodka from the bottle, wandering around seedy neighborhoods at night searching for crack, and multiple failed attempts to get clean.
He said that in 2019 he was able to pick himself up after an intervention by his father and his second wife Melissa.
The one thing that helped him, he wrote, was his father's unconditional love.
"He never abandoned me, never shunned me, never judged me, no matter how bad things got," Hunter wrote.
"There were times when his persistence infuriated me -- I'd attempt to fade to black through alcoholism or drug addiction, and then there he was, barging in again with his lantern, shining a light, disrupting my plans to disappear," he said.
Today Hunter says he is clean. He had a son with Melissa, whom he named Beau.
He has taken up painting, though that brought fresh controversy when unnamed collectors bought his works for prices in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.