Not pardon, but commute? How Biden might influence Hunter's legal outcome

President Joe Biden has already said he would not pardon his son, Hunter, after he was convicted of three federal gun crimes. 

However, the president has not said whether he will commute Hunter's sentence. 

"As we all know, the sentencing hasn't even been scheduled yet," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Wednesday on Air Force One as the president traveled to the Group of Seven summit in Italy.

She said she has not spoken to the president about the issue since the verdict was delivered Tuesday.

What is a pardon?

A pardon is an expression of forgiveness of a criminal offense that restores some rights, such as voting, that a person loses upon conviction.

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Back in April, Biden granted clemency to 16 people who were convicted of non-violent drug crimes, issuing pardons to 11 men and women and commuting the sentences of five other people in the latest use of his clemency power to address racial disparities in the justice system.

Biden said those receiving pardons had shown a commitment to bettering their lives and doing good in their communities.

The president issued his most recent pardons in December 2023 to thousands of people who were convicted of the use and simple possession of marijuana on federal lands and in the District of Columbia.

What is a commutation? 

A commutation only reduces a sentence but does not affect a conviction.

Regarding the clemency Biden granted in April, he said those who had their sentences commuted, or shortened, had shown they were worthy of forgiveness and the chance to build a future outside of prison.

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Hunter was convicted of lying on a mandatory gun purchase form by saying he was not illegally using or addicted to drugs, and illegally having the gun for 11 days.

The three counts carry up to 25 years in prison. But whether the president’s son actually serves any time behind bars will be up to U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika. The judge, who was nominated to the bench by former Republican President Donald Trump, didn’t immediately set a date for sentencing.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.