June 20th, 2024

Jurors in Hunter Biden’s federal gun trial have reached a verdict


By Randall Chase, Claudia Lauer, Michael Kunzelman And Alanna Durkin Richer, The Associated Press on June 11, 2024.

Hunter Biden, right, departs from federal court, Monday, June 10, 2024, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) – Jurors in Hunter Biden’s federal gun trial reached a verdict on Tuesday after three hours of deliberations over two days.

President Joe Biden’s son is accused of lying when he swore he wasn’t a drug user in order to buy a gun in 2018.

Hunter Biden is facing three felony charges over the gun he had for 11 days before his brother’s widow found it in his truck and threw it in the trash.

The case has put on full display some of the darkest moments in the life of Hunter Biden, who has publicly documented his struggle with a crack cocaine addiction before getting sober more than five years ago.

Defense lawyers argued prosecutors failed to prove Hunter Biden was using drugs in the 11 days he possessed the gun. He had completed a rehab program weeks earlier.

It’s the first of two trials Hunter Biden is facing in the midst of his father’s Democratic reelection campaign. He also is charged with failing to pay at least $1.4 million in taxes in a case scheduled to go to trial in September in California.

Hunter Biden was supposed to have avoided prosecution in the gun case altogether, but a deal with prosecutors imploded after U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika raised concerns about it.

Hunter Biden was subsequently indicted on three gun counts: lying to a federally licensed gun dealer, making a false claim on the application by saying he was not a drug user and illegally having the gun for 11 days.

Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty and has accused the Justice Department of bending to political pressure from former President Donald Trump and other Republicans to bring the case and the separate tax charges after the deal with prosecutors fell apart last year.

If convicted in the gun case, Hunter Biden faces up to 25 years in prison, though first-time offenders do not get anywhere near the maximum, and it’s unclear whether the judge would give him time behind bars.

Jurors had deliberated for less than an hour on Monday afternoon before leaving the federal courthouse in Delaware and returning Tuesday morning.

Prosecutors spent last week using testimony from Hunter Biden’s ex-wife and former girlfriends, photos of him with drug paraphernalia and other tawdry evidence to make the case that he lied when he checked “no” on the form at the gun shop that asked whether he was “an unlawful user of, or addicted to” drugs.

“He knew he was using drugs. That’s what the evidence shows. And he knew he was addicted to drugs. That’s what the evidence shows,” prosecutor Leo Wise told jurors in his closing argument Monday.

Hunter Biden’s substance abuse struggles after the 2015 death of his brother, Beau, are well documented. But the defense has argued that he did not consider himself an “addict” when he bought the gun.

Hunter Biden’s lawyers have sought to show he was trying to turn his life around at the time, having completed a rehabilitation program at the end of August 2018. The defense called three witnesses, including Hunter’s daughter Naomi, who told jurors that he seemed be improving in the weeks before he bought the gun.

And the defense told jurors that no one witnessed Hunter Biden using drugs during the 11 days he had the gun before Beau’s widow, Hallie, found it in Hunter’s truck and threw it in a trash can. Defense attorney Abbe Lowell suggested that prosecutors were presenting circumstantial evidence like a magician might present a card trick, trying to get jurors to focus on one hand and ignore the other.

“With my last breath in this case, I ask for the only verdict that will hold the prosecutors to what the law requires of them” – a verdict of not guilty, Lowell said in his final pitch to jurors.

But prosecutors have shown jurors text messages sent in the days after the gun purchase in which Hunter Biden told Hallie he was waiting for a dealer and smoking crack. Hallie and Hunter briefly dated after Beau’s death. Prosecutors have also said they found cocaine residue on the pouch in which Hallie put the gun before tossing it in a trash can outside an upscale grocery store.

First lady Jill Biden, the president’s brother James and other family members watched from the first row of the courtroom as the defense rested its case on Monday without calling Hunter Biden to the witness stand. The first lady has been in court almost every day since the trial began last week.

Before the case went to the jury, the prosecutor urged jurors to focus on the “overwhelming” evidence against Hunter Biden and pay no mind to members of the president’s family sitting in the courtroom.

“All of this is not evidence,” Wise said, extending his hand and directing the jury to look at the gallery. “People sitting in the gallery are not evidence.”

The defense has tried to poke holes in the case by pressing the prosecution’s witnesses on their recollection of certain events. Hunter Biden’s lawyer told jurors they should consider testimony from Hallie and another ex-girlfriend “with great care and caution,” noting their immunity agreements with prosecutors in exchange for their testimony.

The proceedings have played out in the president’s home state, where Hunter Biden grew up and where the family is deeply established. Joe Biden spent 36 years as a senator in Delaware, commuting daily to Washington, and Beau Biden was the state’s attorney general.

Hunter Biden did not testify but jurors repeatedly heard his voice when prosecutors played audio excerpts of his 2021 memoir “Beautiful Things,” in which he talks about hitting bottom after Beau’s death, and descending into drugs and alcohol before his eventual sobriety in 2019.

Hunter Biden had hoped last year to resolve a long-running federal investigation into his business dealings under a deal with prosecutors that would have avoided the spectacle of a trial so close to the 2024 election. Under the deal, he would have pleaded guilty to misdemeanor tax offenses in California and avoided prosecution in the gun case in Delaware if he stayed out of trouble for two years.

But the deal fell apart after U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika, who was nominated by Trump, questioned unusual aspects of the proposed agreement, and the lawyers could not resolve the matter.

Attorney General Merrick Garland then appointed top investigator David Weiss, Delaware’s U.S. attorney, as a special counsel last August, and a month later Hunter Biden was indicted.

Hunter Biden has said he was charged because the Justice Department bowed to pressure from Republicans who argued the Democratic president’s son was getting special treatment.

Under that deal, prosecutors would have recommended two years of probation. In the gun case, the three counts carry up to 25 years in prison, though the sentence would ultimately be up to the judge and it’s unclear whether she would put him behind bars if he’s convicted.

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This story has been corrected to show deliberations were over two days, not two years.

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Richer reported from Washington. Associated Press journalists Mike Catalini and Matt Slocum in Wilmington and Colleen Long in Washington contributed to this report.

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