Judge denies Hunter Biden's request for virtual arraignment on gun charges

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Sept. 21 (UPI) -- Hunter Biden, the son of President Joe Biden, has been ordered to appear in person next month for his first court hearing on felony gun charges after a judge denied his request Wednesday to appear virtually.

"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. Any other defendant would be required to attend his or her initial appearance in person. So too here," U.S. Magistrate Judge Christopher Burke wrote Wednesday, as he set Biden's arraignment for Oct. 3.

The judge had initially ordered Biden to appear Sept. 26, but pushed the court date back at the request of his legal team.

Biden, 53, was indicted on three felony gun charges last week and is expected to plead not guilty. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison, if convicted.

The president's son is accused of lying on a federal form about whether he was drug-free when he bought a Colt Cobra .38 Special nearly five years ago. Biden was allegedly addicted to illegal drugs at the time.

In a court filing obtained by UPI on Tuesday, Biden's lawyers wrote that he had requested a video appearance to minimize the "unnecessary burden" on government resources, including his Secret Service protection.

Biden is the first child of a sitting president to be charged by the U.S. Justice Department.

"No matter whether in person or virtual, he will waive reading of the indictment, which is merely a few pages and could easily be read at a video conference," Biden attorney Abbe Lowell wrote in Tuesday's filing.

Special counsel David Weiss argued that there was no precedent for Biden to avoid an in-person appearance.

"Hunter Biden does not contend he is injured or indigent," the Delaware U.S. attorney wrote in his own filing. "If 'convenience' was a legitimate basis to warrant virtual proceedings, every defendant would ask for them in every case."

Prosecutors have also argued that given the seriousness of the gun charges, the magistrate judge needs to assess Biden in person before deciding the conditions of his release.

"The Court will also address Defendant's pre-trial release conditions," Burke wrote Wednesday, as he denied Biden's motion.

"While the Court expects it is likely that the currently-imposed conditions will remain in place, were either side to suggest alterations, the Court would want to be able to address that issue in person with the parties."