Hunter Biden found guilty on federal gun charges after a trial that laid bare his addiction struggles

June 11, 2024
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WILMINGTON, Del. — A jury in Delaware on Tuesday found Hunter Biden, the son of President Joe Biden, guilty on three felony gun charges after a weeklong trial that focused on his history of drug addiction.

Hunter Biden was charged in federal court in Wilmington with three felony counts tied to possession of a gun while using narcotics, and had pleaded not guilty. The jury started its deliberations on Monday afternoon, and deliberated for about three hours before returning the historic verdict.

Hunter Biden looked straight ahead at the jury as it delivered the verdict, and slightly nodded as it was read.

The trial was the first involving the offspring of a sitting president, and came as Joe Biden is facing a brutal re-election fight against Donald Trump in November. First lady Jill Biden was not in the courtroom as the verdict was read, and arrived at the courthouse minutes later. She immediately went into a holding room where Hunter Biden went after the verdict.

Two of the counts carry maximum prison sentences of 10 years, while the third has a maximum of five years. Under federal sentencing guideline recommendations, he could be sentenced to over a year in prison, but the judge could sentence him to more or less time. Each count also carries a maximum fine of $250,000.

No sentencing date has been set.

In a statement, the president said, “Jill and I love our son, and we are so proud of the man he is today.”

The president said he accepted the outcome of the case “and will continue to respect the judicial process as Hunter considers an appeal. Jill and I will always be there for Hunter and the rest of our family with our love and support. Nothing will ever change that.”

Biden has the power to pardon his son, but told ABC News in an interview on June 6 that he would not do so.

Jill Biden attended the trial — which began on June 3 featured explicit testimony from three of Hunter Biden’s former romantic partners about his chronic drug use — on multiple days.

Two of the counts accused Biden of having completed a form falsely indicating he was not using illegal drugs when he bought a Colt Cobra revolver in October 2018. The third count alleged he possessed a firearm while using a narcotic.

Biden’s defense centered on the language used in the question on the federally mandated gun shop form, which asked, “are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to” a narcotic drug. Hunter Biden’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, noted other questions on the sheet began with “have you ever been,” but not that one. He suggested his client had been using alcohol during that time period, but not crack cocaine, and that it would have been easy to tell if he was on drugs at the time.

“There may be high-functioning alcoholics, but there’s no such thing as a high-functioning crack addict,” Lowell said in his opening statement.  

Lowell acknowledged his client used crack in the months before and after the sale, but suggested he wasn’t using it at the time of the sale and did not at that point consider himself an addict, so he did not “knowingly” violate the law. 

Prosecutors pushed back on that claim by using passages from  Biden’s book, where he detailed his struggles with alcohol and drug addiction. 

Lowell told jurors in closing arguments that writing after the fact about being an addict in his book, which was published in 2021, doesn’t mean Biden knew he was an addict when he bought the gun. 

Prosecutors also pointed to circumstantial evidence from witnesses about Biden’s chronic drug use, his text messages and photos of him using drugs to show he was using crack during that time. “The evidence was personal, it was ugly, it was overwhelming,” Leo Wise told the jury in his closing argument.

Prosecutors noted that Biden had withdrawn $5,000 in cash on the day of the sale and texted Hallie Biden, the widow of his brother, Beau Biden, the next day that he was looking for a dealer.

Two days after the gun sale, he texted her, “I was sleeping on a car smoking crack.”

Lowell suggested his client’s claims were “facetious,” and he was simply trying to dodge Hallie Biden. The two had a tumultuous romantic relationship following Beau Biden’s death. “You have no idea whether he was just saying that or whether he was actually there?” Lowell asked Hallie Biden in cross-examination last week. “Correct,” she replied.

Prosecutors also pushed back on Lowell’s argument that his client couldn’t function on drugs. Another witness Biden had been romantically involved with, Zoe Kestan, testified that when she first saw him smoke crack, she didn’t notice any change in his demeanor. She also said his drug use got worse as time went on, and there were points at which he was smoking crack every 20 minutes. 

Hallie Biden said Hunter Biden introduced her to crack, a time in her life that she referred to as “terrible” and “embarrassing.” She said she gave up using drugs in August 2018 and urged him to get clean as well. She discovered the gun in his car 11 days after he bought it and threw it away outside of a grocery store for fear he or her children might hurt themselves.

“I realize it was a stupid idea now, but I was just panicking,” she testified. The gun was found by a passerby, which led to the criminal investigation. 

The gun charge was initially going to be disposed of as part of a plea deal with special counsel David Weiss’ office last year. Under the terms of the deal, Biden would have been sentenced to six months probation for pleading guilty to tax charges, while the gun charge would have been dismissed in two years if Biden honored the terms of what’s known as a diversion agreement.

As part of the plea deal, which was ultimately rejected by U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika over concerns about its scope, Biden submitted a statement of facts in which he acknowledged he “was a user of and addicted to crack cocaine at the time” of the gun sale. 

The court document, which jurors were prevented from seeing because it was part of the rejected plea agreement, also said that during the 11 days he possessed the gun “he purchased and used crack cocaine regularly.”

Plea negotiations fell apart following Noreika’s rejection, leading to the indictment on the gun charges in Delaware and another on tax charges in California. 

That case is scheduled to go to trial in September.



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