The Unreported Irony Of Hunter Biden’s Conviction – OpEd


It has gone largely, if not completely, unremarked in all the verbiage spun out by the 24-hour news cycle in the US media that the law under which the president’s son, Hunter Biden was convicted on three felony counts, was something pushed by his own dad, Joe Biden as part of his effort to “lock up drug users” for lengthy terms in 1994.

It’s no secret that Papa Biden, as a Senator and chair of the Senate Judicial Committee, teamed up with President Bill Clinton in a deliberate strategy of passing a get-tough-on-crime bill, undermining habeas corpus, making the death penalty tougher to appeal, and contriving to pile on years of jail time when offenses could be linked to one’s drug use in order to lock up low-level drug users and other perps — mostly nonwhite — for serious time behind bars.. One such handy add-on was a law making it a crime to buy a gun while addicted to a Class A drug (but, of course, not while blitzed on alcohol).

In Hunter Biden’s case, his addiction to crack cocaine in and of itself would not have resulted in a felony conviction. If he had been arrested or been proven to have under 10 grams of crack cocaine, he would have, as a first offender, been put in a diversion program to undergo treatment and avoid jail. But because of a “pile-on” charge of buying a gun while lying on ther federal form required for such purchases, saying he was not a cocaine addict when he was, in fact, one, the case against him has raised to a Class A felony with a maximum 10-year sentence, and because the prosecutor added two related felony charges carrying a 10 and a five year sentence, he faces at least the potential of 25 years in jail (thanks to a US judicial option, frequently used these days, of making sentences run consecutively instead of concurrently).

The idea behind the Biden-Clinton Drug laws of 1994  was decidedly not to help addicts go straight or even to help reduce gun violence (there was no violence alleged in Biden’s case). It was to change the image of the Democratic Party from being soft on crime to one whose candidates would throw criminals and drug users and sellers in jail and toss away the key. In a Senate floor speech in 1994 as the Clinton crime bill he had shepherded through the Senate Judiciary Committee, was being put to a vote, Biden said, “Every time Richard Nixon, when he was running in 1972, would say, ‘Law and order,’ the Democratic match or response was, ‘Law and order with justice’ — whatever that meant. And I would say, ‘Lock the S.O.B.s up.’”

After the passage of the legislation, Federal judges around the country happily obliged, mostly reserving the longest sentences for crimes committed by black offenders or other offenders of color. This led to decades of mass incarceration whose victims still fill the nation’s prisons as state legislatures and state judges happily piled on, following the draconian lock ‘em up approach of the Feds.

Now one of those “S.O.B.s “ is the president’s own troubled and allegedly recovering crack-cocaine-addicted son Hunter, that if Biden, worried about his re-election prospects, sticks with his vow not to use his pardon power to erase Hunter’s conviction or to commute it to parole of some kind.

It says a lot that David Weiss, the special prosecutor appointed by Trump but who was kept on in that role by President Biden, specifically used the term “crack cocaine” multiple times in his indictment of Hunter Biden and and in his summation to the jury.

“Crack cocaine” has long been the drug of choice of impoverished addicts, most often people of color, though it is also the drug used by poor whites.  The people doing lines of pure cocaine are more typically lawyers, stockbrokers, high-flying corporate executives, and Hollywood and rock stars — people with the money to pay the higher prices. Under the Biden-Clinton drug laws, the penalties were often actually heavier for selling, buying or even using crack than for selling, buying or using cocaine.  Recently those laws, at least at the federal level have been changed to equalize the charged, but many people in jail on drug charges involving crack are still serving lengthy sentences while cocaine convicts are long since out and are often back at their old jobs. Weiss’s use of the term crack cocaine concerning Biden was no accident; he was trying to link defendant Biden with the sordid image of impoverished minority drug users.

That might seem like a story that most news organizations, whatever their political bent, would consider a significant irony to highlight, particularly given that Biden, struggling in the polls in his re-election campaign against former President Donald Trump, while defending his son as a good person, is not coming to his son’s aid beyond moral support.

The tactic seems to have worked on the jury, which deliberated less than three hours before convicting Hunter Biden on all three felony counts. If made to run consecutively, these could (but likely won’t) lead to a sentence of 25 years.

But it’s important to note that for many black defendants facing the same case involving a gun and cocaine addiction, a long sentence would be quite likely, particularly because the defendant, especially in a state trial, would likely have only a low-paid and overworked public defender who would likely recommend a guilty plea in hopes of getting a lesser sentence — even if the charges were false.,

The president, Hunter’s father, is clearly in a bind. He obviously loves his troubled younger son, but using his pardon power to let him off would highlight to already disenchanted black voters familiar a double standard. This is particularly true because the president has not followed through in any major way with a campaign promise to undo the horrors of the mass incarceration program he launched with President Clinton three decades ago that has thrown hundreds of thousands of young black men and even children under 18 in  in jail, and etched a big “F” for felon on their chests, ruining any chance for them to recover and led a productive live after finally getting out of prison or “juvie.”

The only place I’ve seen this hypocrisy and irony mentioned at all has been in a piece by Fox News which aired a few days after the conviction.

CNN on June 11, alluded to the irony in a piece headlined “Opinion: It doesn’t get more awkward than it did for Biden,” but that news story didn’t point out that Biden, along with Clinton, was the key backer for ever-stricter gun laws like the ones his son has been convicted of violating.

It’s not a pretty picture, but Biden has astonishingly made it worse by speaking out in favor of even tougher laws on guns the same day only a few hours after his son got the bad news from a unanimous jury: guilty-guilty-guilty.

Biden might have done better to show some empathy for those imprisoned by his draconian gun laws. He might have, instead of just saying, “I am the president but I’m also a dad,” have shown some new sympathy or at least empathy for those hundreds of thousands of “SOBs” his 1994 crime law legislation has locked up (and their families. But he doesn’t seem to get it. None of those poor and minority inmates ever had a chance. If they had a lawyer at all, it was one so underpaid and overworked that she or he would have had no chance against high-paid prosecutors. The most such defenders could do was try to convince their clients to accept a plea bargain that would give them a lower sentence or perhaps a reduction of the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor.

“I’m sorry” would have been better than what he offered.

No wonder Biden’s disapproval rating is so high that odds-makers are saying Trump will likely win in November.

Dave Lindorff

Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. He is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective. Lindorff is a contributor to "Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion" (AK Press) and the author the author of “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press). He can be reached at [email protected]

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