Hunter Biden must appear in person for a hearing where he is expected to plead not guilty to federal firearms charges that were filed after the collapse of a plea deal in a long-running federal investigation, a judge has ruled.
The president's son had asked to appear via video conference for the hearing now set for September 26, but US Magistrate Judge Christopher Burke sided with prosecutors on Wednesday who said he should be there in person.
Burke found that the court conducted initial appearance hearings over video only at the height of the coronavirus pandemic or on very few occasions when a defendant was physically unable to be present or destitute.
Hunter should "not receive special treatment in this matter," he wrote.
"Absent some unusual circumstance, he should be treated just as would any other defendant in our court."
The hearing was set on the same day US Attorney General Merrick Garland appeared before a US House committee, where he faced hours of questioning about the Justice Department's handling of the Hunter probe.
Hunter Biden's charges
The president's son is accused of lying on a form about his drug use when he bought a firearm in October 2018 — a period when he has acknowledged he was struggling with addiction — and keeping the gun for 11 days.
The three-count indictment from a special counsel overseeing the case came weeks after a proposed plea deal failed and puts the case on track toward a possible trial as the 2024 election looms.
Hunter has also been under investigation for his business dealings, and the special counsel has indicated that tax charges could be filed at some point in Washington or in California, where he lives.
The trial means that the United States will likely face the unprecedented spectacle of a sitting president's child facing a criminal trial while his father campaigns for re-election.
Biden's likely Republican rival, Donald Trump, also faces four upcoming criminal trials of his own.