Inside the Hunter Biden verdict | WORLD
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Inside the Hunter Biden verdict

President’s son found guilty of three felony counts

From left: first lady Jill Biden, Hunter Biden, and Melissa Cohen Biden walking out of federal court after hearing the verdict on Tuesday in Wilmington, Del. Associated Press/Photo by Matt Rourke

Inside the Hunter Biden verdict

A jury today found President Joe Biden’s son guilty of three federal felony gun charges: making a false statement on a federal document, lying to a federally licensed gun dealer, and illegally possessing a gun while being addicted to drugs.

A jury of six men and six women deliberated for only three hours in Wilmington, Del. During jury selection, one juror said he owned multiple guns and cared deeply about Second Amendment protections. Others said they had family members who struggled with substance abuse.

President Biden said last week that he would not pardon his son, Hunter Biden, if he was convicted.

“As I said last week, I am the President, but I am also a Dad,” President Joe Biden said in a statement shortly after the conviction. “Jill and I love our son, and we are so proud of the man he is today. So many families who have had loved ones battle addiction understand the feeling of pride seeing someone you love come out the other side and be so strong and resilient in recovery.”

Hunter’s legal team is expected to appeal the verdict. He nodded his head while the verdict was being read and then shook hands with his attorneys and hugged family members in the courtroom.

What were the charges?

According to a federal indictment, Hunter owned a gun while actively using drugs from Oct. 12 to Oct. 23, 2018. The first two charges addressed how Hunter purchased the gun. A buyer must fill out a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) form and confirm he is legally allowed to purchase a weapon. The government claimed Hunter lied on this form by checking the “no” box when asked if he was “an unlawful user of, or addicted to, illegal drugs.” The third charge alleged he violated federal law by possessing a gun while abusing drugs.

The maximum sentence for all three counts is 25 years in prison and fines of up to $750,000. First-time offenders rarely receive the full penalty, especially for nonviolent crimes.

Hunter’s history of drug abuse was not in question. The legal battle was over when it took place.

What was the defense strategy?

Lead defense attorney Abbe Lowell maintained the government did not prove Hunter was on drugs when he had the gun. He possessed it for only 11 days until Hallie Biden, his widowed sister-in-law and then-girlfriend, found it unloaded in his truck. Hallie testified for the prosecution that she was concerned for Hunter’s mental state, so she threw the gun in a grocery store trash can in Wilmington, where a bystander later found it.

Lowell questioned whether Hallie was a reliable witness because she admitted to using drugs while romantically involved with Hunter. When Hunter found out that she threw away the gun, he told her to file a police report, which Lowell said a dangerous addict would not have done. Naomi Biden, Hunter’s 30-year-old daughter, testified that she never saw anything suspicious when she borrowed her father’s truck on Oct. 19, 2018, nor had she ever seen her father use drugs. She also said she visited him in rehab shortly before the gun purchase and was happy to see him in recovery.

Finally, Lowell argued that the language on the ATF form was unclear. He claimed that Hunter had completed a rehab program a few weeks earlier and was sober when he filled out the form. Because the addiction question was written in the present tense, he was honest that he was no longer using illegal drugs. The seller, who was with Hunter for most of the day, did not report seeing any signs of him being under the influence.

What did the prosecution argue?

Attorneys for the government argued they only had to prove that Hunter was “actively engaged” in drug use around the general time of the purchase.

“The United States is not required to prove drug use on a specific day,” prosecutor Leo Wise told the jury. “There is no requirement for the United States to prove [drug] use in the month of October. You can convict on those facts alone.”

Prosecutors displayed a range of photos of Hunter either smoking crack cocaine or displaying drug paraphernalia. Jurors also saw a series of text messages between Hunter and family members. On the day he bought the gun, he told Hallie he was waiting for a dealer while he was on a trip to California. Some late-night messages to Naomi that week showed he was acting erratically, prosecutors argued. Women who met Hunter in strip clubs testified that he smoked crack every 20 minutes.

“No one is above the law,” prosecutor Leo Wise said in closing arguments. “The evidence was personal. It was ugly, and it was overwhelming. But it was also absolutely necessary.”

Closing arguments

Lowell said the government failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hunter was actively using at the time of the gun purchase. He angrily accused the prosecution of “extraordinary cruelty” during a cross-examination of Naomi in which they implied she was also a drug user and therefore not a reliable witness. He posited that Hunter often lied to Hallie about his whereabouts and might have also been doing so when he said he was waiting for a dealer in California.

Prosecutors urged the jury not to be swayed by the several Biden family members in attendance throughout the trial, including first lady Jill Biden. They said that Hunter lied on the ATF form and he also admitted as much in his memoir.

What’s next?

Judge Maryellen Noreika, a Trump appointee, did not schedule a sentencing date on Tuesday. Hunter will stand trial again in September over felony tax fraud charges stemming from admissions published in his memoir. Last week, House Republicans sent criminal referrals against Hunter and his uncle, James Biden, for allegedly lying to Congress during interviews. Republicans have been investigating whether President Joe Biden traded political favors with foreign business partners connected to Hunter and James.

Carolina Lumetta

Carolina is a WORLD reporter and a graduate of the World Journalism Institute and Wheaton College. She resides in Washington, D.C.



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