The judge overseeing Hunter Biden's trial has ordered the first son to show up in person for an October 3 arraignment, rejecting a request to appear digitally.
Judge Christopher Burke wrote that Biden "should be treated just as would any other defendant in our court," an apparent response to growing concerns that the Biden investigation has been compromised by politics.
The development is a public relations blow to the first son and his father President Biden, who is pursuing re-election in the shadow of a developing family scandal.
The Special Counsel in charge of the investigation, David Weiss, backed the move, saying it was necessary to instill confidence in the probe.
"An in-person hearing is important to promote the public’s confidence that the defendant is being treated consistently with other defendants in this District and in other Districts,” Weiss' team wrote.
Prosecutors cited former President Trump's multiple in-person arraignments, each of which has drawn significant publicity. Trump and his allies have blasted the indictments as part of a coordinated attack by a weaponized justice system.
Weiss faces skepticism from Republicans who say Hunter Biden has received special treatment, especially after Weiss approved a sweetheart plea deal that would have spared Hunter any jail time. The agreement unraveled in court in July.
Then, last week, Weiss indicted Hunter for lying about his drug habit on a gun form. Hunter's lawyers have dismissed the gun charges, saying Weiss only brought them because of pressure from Republicans.
On the other hand, Republicans mostly dismissed the charges as a distraction from more serious wrongdoing surrounding the Biden family's foreign business deals, in which Hunter played a key role.
Hunter's lawyers said an in-person arraignment would be an unnecessary draw on resources, given Hunter Biden's Secret Service protection.
"No matter whether in person or virtual ... Mr. Biden also will enter a plea of not guilty, and there is no reason why he cannot utter those two words by video conference," Biden's lawyer Abbe Lowell wrote.
But the judge, agreeing with Weiss, said it was "important to promote the public's confidence that the defendant is being treated consistently with other defendants."
"Any other defendant would be required to attend his or her initial appearance in person," Burke wrote. "So too here."
It's unclear whether Hunter will face additional charges beyond the gun charge.