News Roundup

As AP News reports, Hunter Biden, the son of President Biden, was convicted of three felony offenses in a federal court in Delaware this week. The convictions include making a false statement to a licensed gun dealer, making false statements on the firearm purchase application form, and illegal possession of a gun. The younger Biden falsely represented that he was not disqualified as an unlawful user of controlled substances (one of the disqualifying grounds for gun possession under 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(3)). Biden is expected to appeal. One of his arguments in post-trial proceedings will be a challenge under the Second Amendment to the federal ban on gun possession by unlawful drug users. The trial court rejected a facial challenge to the law in pretrial proceedings but reserved judgment on the argument that the law was unconstitutional as applied to Mr. Biden under New York Rifle and Pistol Assn., Inc. v. Bruen, 597 U.S. 1 (2022). CNN has a report on this aspect of the case, here. As Shea reported in last week’s News Roundup, this is the first of two criminal trials faced by the president’s son. An additional federal trial in California on alleged tax crimes is expected to occur in September. Read on for more criminal law news.

Defense Counsel Held in Contempt in Young Thug Trial. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that defense attorney Brian Steel was held in contempt and sentenced to 20 days in jail, to be served on the weekends for the next ten weeks. Mr. Steel is serving as defense counsel in the ongoing racketeering trial of Jeffery Williams, also known as the rapper Young Thug (a case we have covered before in the News Roundup and which is notable for the ten-month jury selection process, among other things). Mr. Steel apparently became aware of a conversation between the trial judge, the prosecutor, and a prosecution witness in chambers. Steel complained, expressing concern that the witness had been coerced or intimidated during the ex parte meeting. In response, the trial judge demanded to know how Steel learned about the conversation. When Steel refused repeated requests to divulge his source, the judge found him in contempt and ordered him jailed (although he was later allowed to continue participation in the case the same day). Steel’s wife is also a lawyer and has indicated that she is appealing the contempt conviction on her husband’s behalf. You can read the full order finding Mr. Steel in contempt at the link above.

Chicago Man Exonerated After 12 Years in Prison. Darien Harris was 18 years old and in high school in 2011 when police charged him in connection with a homicide. He was convicted of first-degree murder and other charges in 2014 and sentenced to a prison term of 76 years. The state’s main eyewitness at trial concealed the fact that he had been diagnosed as legally blind for nearly a decade before the trial, and the State heavily relied on his lineup and in-court identifications of Mr. Harris as the shooter to convict. Due to efforts of the Exoneration Project, Mr. Harris was released from prison last December. He has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the City of Chicago and several police departments involved in his arrest and prosecution, alleging a pattern of police misconduct in his case and others. According to the report, exonerations in the U.S. are up 70% since 2017, and misconduct by police or prosecutors has played a role in 85% of exonerations in 2023 alone.

YouTuber Facing Federal Explosives Charges. According to this report, Alex Choi, a 24-year-old Instagram and YouTube content maker, is known for making videos of “car shenanigans.” In the view of federal law enforcement authorities in southern California, his latest exploits were a bridge too far. Mr. Choi faces charges of bringing explosive devices onto an aircraft after he posted a (now-removed) video of fireworks being fired from a flying helicopter at a moving Lamborghini on the ground. The story notes that Mr. Choi was given a $50,000 bond and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted as charged.

Have It Your Way. Two people were arrested in Lee County on drug offenses this week after an officer discovered cocaine hidden inside of a cheeseburger within the car. The pair were presumably not loving it after the discovery of the secret ingredient. Other drugs and weapons were also found, leading to felony charges for the man and the woman. WRAL has the story, here.

Man Destroys License Plate Readers; License Plate Readers Strike Back. A Florida man was recently arrested on allegations that he destroyed more than a dozen license plate readers. He is accused of ripping the cameras out of place and tossing them into ponds, ditches, and bushes in at least three municipalities around Seminole County over a period of two weeks. According to the local Sheriff’s department, the damaged cameras were worth close to $35,000. The suspect was apparently apprehended after police reviewed the footage on the damaged devices (along with other surveillance footage) which allegedly showed the man committing the acts of vandalism. The story is here.

I hope everyone has a safe and restful weekend. I can be reached as always at with any questions, comments, or feedback.