President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, has been criminally charged with three counts of lying when buying a firearm, after a proposed plea deal collapsed.
The indictment marks the first time the child of a sitting president has been criminally prosecuted.
A planned plea bargain to resolve gun and tax-related charges he faced abruptly fell apart in July.
All three counts relate to Mr Biden allegedly lying on forms while buying a firearm when he was a drug user.
Court documents show that Mr Biden lied on the federally mandated forms as he purchased a Colt revolver at a Delaware gun store in October 2018. He kept the gun for 11 days.
If convicted, Mr Biden faces a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison, the justice department said in a statement. Actual sentences for federal crimes are usually less than the maximum possible penalties.
At the time of the gun purchase, Mr Biden was a heavy user of crack cocaine.
Under US federal laws, it is a crime to lie on such documentation, or possess a firearm while a drug user.
He previously acknowledged the charges during negotiations for the aborted plea deal, a two-part agreement struck between prosecutors and Mr Biden’s legal team in June.
Under the terms of the agreement, he would have been charged with two misdemeanour counts for failing to pay his taxes on time in 2017 and 2018.
Additionally, he would also have been forced to admit to illegal possession of a firearm.
The deal fell apart, however, after US District Court Judge Maryellen Noreika said she could not “rubber stamp the agreement”, adding that the proposed resolution of the gun-related offence was “unusual”.
The charges are the first brought by justice department special counsel Davis Weiss, who was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland in August.
Mr Weiss’ office had previously said he was seeking to indict Mr Biden by 29 September.
The younger Mr Biden’s legal woes have become a political lightning rod as his father seeks re-election.
Earlier this week, Republicans in the US House of Representatives announced an impeachment inquiry into President Biden.
Among the accusations being levelled against the elder Mr Biden are that he lied about his involvement in his son’s business dealings while serving as vice-president.
Two Internal Revenue Service investigators also claimed the justice department stymied the investigation into Hunter Biden’s tax return.
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