Hunter Biden, son of U.S. President Joe Biden, and his wife Melissa Cohen Biden arrive at the federal court for his trial on criminal gun charges, in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., June 10, 2024. REUTERS/Hannah Beier




  Hunter Biden found guilty in gun trial that exposed dark parts of his life

By Perry Stein,
David Nakamura,
and Devlin Barrett

WILMINGTON, Del. — Hunter Biden was found guilty of felony gun charges in federal court Tuesday, ending a trial that exposed some of the ugliest moments in the life of the president’s son and put on national display the first family’s pain, heartache and regrets.

The jury concluded that Hunter Biden, 54, lied about his drug use when he filled out a form to purchase a gun in October 2018 and then illegally owned that weapon as a drug user for 11 days.

The jury deliberated for a little more than three hours before finding him guilty on all three counts. Biden nodded, but otherwise showed little emotion when the verdict was read. He then hugged each member of his legal team and said thank you.

Biden then walked out past the defendant’s table, hugged and kissed his wife, Melissa Cohen-Biden, and left the courtroom, shaking the hands of friends and family along the way.

In a written statement after he left the courthouse, Biden said he was “more grateful today for the love and support I experienced this last week from Melissa, my family, my friends, and my community than I am disappointed by the outcome. Recovery is possible by the grace of God, and I am blessed to experience that gift one day at a time.”

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The gun trial, which lasted just over a week, showcased years of internal behind-the-scenes drama in the Biden family, with relatives and former family members taking the witness stand. The proceedings also played out against the backdrop of President Biden’s reelection campaign, with Republicans seizing on Hunter Biden’s legal troubles to try to portray the entire Biden family as corrupt.

The trial also showed the wrenching reality of prosecuting a drug addict, particularly one who has been open about his battles and says he has been sober since 2019. After the verdict, one juror told The Washington Post that he didn’t believe Hunter Biden belonged in prison and that he felt bad that his daughter had to testify about her father’s drug use.

U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika and prosecutors had warned the jurors that “sympathy” shouldn’t play into their verdict. In the end, after a trial that included painful testimony from Biden’s romantic partners and readings of his text messages, jurors were asked to decide if he lied on a form when he purchased a gun and then illegally owned it as a drug addict.

President Biden said in a statement that he loves Hunter and is “proud of the man he is today.” Biden said earlier that he would not pardon his son if convicted, and he repeated that Tuesday.

“I will accept the outcome of this case and will continue to respect the judicial process as Hunter considers an appeal,” the president said. “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.”

Special counsel David Weiss, who has overseen the investigation of Hunter Biden for years, said the gun charges case “was not just about addiction, a disease that haunts families across the United States, including Hunter Biden’s family. This case was about the legal choices the defendant made while in the throes of addiction,” Weiss said in a brief address to reporters after the verdict. “It was these choices and the combination of guns and drugs that made his conduct dangerous.”

Weiss, who is preparing to put Hunter Biden on trial again in September on tax charges, said the verdict illustrated a basic principle of American justice.

“No one in this country is above the law. Everyone must be accountable for their actions, including this defendant,” said Weiss, who also signaled that when it came to Biden’s sentence, the president’s son should again be treated like everyone else.

The most serious charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, but as a first-time offender, Biden will probably get a much lighter sentence and may not go to jail.

Biden’s defense lawyers argued that prosecutors did not offer a drug test or other concrete evidence that he was on drugs when he bought the gun, or that he took drugs while the gun was in his possession. Prosecutors told the jury in closing arguments that they did not have to prove those details and that their responsibility was to show Biden knew he was a drug user and that he was addicted to them at the time of the October 2018 purchase.

If the trial evidence does not conclusively prove Hunter Biden was a crack addict in 2018, “then no one is a crack addict,” prosecutor Derek Hines told jurors in his closing argument Monday. Hines mocked the defense claim that Biden, a Yale-educated lawyer, was somehow confused by the paperwork questions that come with buying a firearm.

“The same laws apply to the defendant just like they would to anyone else,” Hines said.

His fellow prosecutor Leo Wise alluded to the frequent courtroom presence of first lady Jill Biden and much of the Biden family, telling the jury: “People sitting in the gallery are not evidence.”

Defense lawyer Abbe Lowell accused prosecutors of performing a kind of magic trick for the jury — trying to get them to focus on something other than the most critical evidence. Lowell said prosecutors were trying to twist Biden’s words of recovery — particularly how he described his once-frequent drug use in his autobiography — into damning admissions.

A 2018 text in which Hunter Biden called himself a “liar,” “thief,” and “addict,” was not an admission but a “cry for help,” Lowell said. Prosecutors “spent hours, literally hours, recounting Hunter’s terrible journey through alcohol and drug abuse,” Lowell said. Biden never used or loaded the gun, Lowell told the jury.

President Joe Biden’s son Hunter was found guilty on all charges in a criminal case centered around the purchase of a gun in 2018. (Video: Jorge Ribas/The Washington Post)

The gun charges Biden faced are rarely brought as stand-alone counts without being linked to other alleged crimes. The charges against Biden grew out of a long-running federal investigation into his taxes and business deals in a time period during which his father was vice president and after he left that office.

In an interview with The Post, Juror No. 10, a 68-year-old White man, said the jury did not discuss politics. Joe Biden’s name “was brought up once during trial, when it sunk in a little bit: The sitting president’s son on trial... That was hard, but you kind of put it out of your mind. … I don’t think it was politicized,” said the juror, who declined to give his name over concerns that he could face public recriminations.

The juror said when the panel first began deliberating its members were evenly divided 6-6 on whether to convict, but as they discussed the evidence they quickly became unanimous for conviction.

He also said it was sad to hear testimony from Hunter Biden’s daughter, Naomi Biden, who was called as a witness by the defense. “No daughter should ever have to testify against her dad,” the juror said.

“I really don’t think that Hunter belongs in jail,” the juror said, though he added that Biden’s own book provided much of the critical evidence against him.

“Hunter didn’t testify, but by all counts he did testify through the book because that was his words,” the juror said. “And he chose to have it audio – so when you have it audio, and he’s writing that book and he’s telling you, ‘I’m an addict’ -- that has to play a part. You can’t help but not think of him admitting to himself that he was an addict.”

Last summer, Hunter Biden agreed to a deal with prosecutors that would have involved admitting to the facts of the gun case. But the deal fell apart amid scrutiny from the trial judge and disagreement over whether Biden would get immunity from potential additional charges.

Prosecutors called witness after witness to testify about Hunter Biden’s rampant use of crack cocaine after the death of his brother, Beau, from brain cancer in 2015. The witnesses included Hunter Biden’s ex-wife, Kathleen Buhle, and Beau Biden’s widow, Hallie Biden, with whom Hunter Biden had an on-again, off-again romance between 2016 and 2019.

They offered text messages and anecdotes detailing Hunter Biden’s alleged drug use around the time of the gun purchase and failed attempts to help him. In one key text message from Hunter Biden days after he bought the gun, he told Hallie he was “sleeping on a car smoking crack.”

Hunter Biden’s personal life by all accounts has become more stable in the last few years — with his marriage to Cohen-Biden and a young son named Beau after his late brother. But the legal threats he faces have escalated.

He is scheduled to go to trial in Los Angeles on federal tax evasion charges in September, two months before Election Day. That trial involves the same federal prosecutors, who are expected to outline the various ways in which Biden was spending his money. According to the indictment, much of it went to “drugs, escorts and girlfriends, luxury hotels and rental properties, exotic cars, clothing, and other items of a personal nature, in short, everything but his taxes.”

In Delaware, prosecutors opened their case by playing a recording of Hunter Biden reading from his revealing memoir, in which he disclosed in great detail how he would buy drugs and use them and spoke of various women he slept with in hotels around the country. Trial exhibits included photos displayed on a large screen in the courtroom, showing him passed out from drug use or in a bubble bath with a woman.

Hunter Biden has said he’s been sober since around 2019. His book was a confessional in some ways, and he has tried to repair relationships that were broken by his years of debauchery. He has also tried to adopt a more public profile and to push back against Republicans in Congress and elsewhere who have been his most vocal critics.

Throughout the trial, various family members filled the rows behind the defense table where Biden sat. His mother, Jill Biden, tried to be there almost every day, traveling back and forth from France so she could attend the trial in between joining her husband for commemorations of D-Day and a state dinner with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Almost every time Hunter Biden entered or left the courtroom, he kissed Jill Biden on the cheek, then kissed his wife and walked hand in hand with her on the way out.



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