A federal judge appointed by former President Barack Obama has denied a request for the public disclosure of records regarding Hunter Biden's gun that allegedly was thrown into a trash can in 2018.
U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras on Tuesday ruled that the first son's privacy as a private citizen exceeded the value of releasing any such records to the public.
"The privacy interest here is remarkably strong," wrote Contreras, who did say the public interest in the handling of any investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) into the incident was "significant."
In March 2021, Politico reported that Hunter and Hallie Biden, who were dating at the time, "were involved in a bizarre incident in which Hallie took Hunter's gun and threw it in a trash can behind a grocery store, only to return later to find it gone" in October 2018.
Internet journalist and gun enthusiast David Codrea requested the episode's records in November 2020 and filed a suit in August 2021 after the ATF failed to produce any documents.
Contreras' 24-page decision makes numerous references to the Politico article, which said that a man who regularly rummaged in the trash returned the weapon to authorities a few days after it went missing.
Politico reported that Secret Service agents allegedly visited the gun store where Hunter Biden bought the weapon and asked for the purchase records. The owner declined to provide them, saying the matter was under the jurisdiction of the ATF, with which he later cooperated.
The White House and the Secret Service issued statements dismissing reports that the agency intervened in a 2018 incident.
A copy of the purchase form showed that Hunter Biden checked a box saying he was not at the time a user of, or addicted to, narcotics – even though he and family members have said he has struggled with drug addiction for years.
Still, no charges were brought in connection with the episode.
Contreras said Hunter Biden's memoir, in which he wrote about his drug problems, did not diminish his privacy interest in any records about the episode, Politico reported.
"Disclosure would reveal whether Hunter Biden was criminally investigated by ATF," the judge wrote. "An individual's public disclosure of information that could be potentially incriminating in a general sense does not reduce his privacy interest in whether he was the subject of a particular federal criminal investigation by a particular agency."
Contreras said the fact President Joe Biden is Hunter Biden's father did not undo the first son's privacy interest as a legal matter.
"The Court is not aware of any case law holding that a private citizen like Hunter Biden loses a sense of personal privacy for purposes of [a Freedom of Information Act exemption] merely by being related to a prominent public official," the judge wrote.
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