July 19, 2024, 3:23 am


Int'l Correspondent

Published:
2024-06-11 12:13:21 BdST

Hunter Biden convicted of all 3 felonies in federal gun trial


Hunter Biden was convicted Tuesday of all three felony charges related to the purchase of a revolver in 2018 when, prosecutors argued, the president’s son lied on a mandatory gun-purchase form by saying he was not illegally using or addicted to drugs.

Hunter Biden stared straight ahead and showed little emotion as the verdict was read after jurors deliberated for three hours over two days. He hugged his attorneys, smiled wanly and kissed his wife, Melissa, before leaving the courtroom with her.

He faces up to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced by U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika, though first-time offenders do not get anywhere near the maximum, and it’s unclear whether she would give him time behind bars. The judge did not set a sentencing date.

“No one in this country is above the law," special counsel David Weiss, the prosecutor who has led the long-running federal investigation into Hunter Biden, told reporters after the verdict.

First lady Jill Biden, who sat through most of the trial, arrived at the courthouse minutes after the jury delivered its verdict and was not in the courtroom when it was read. Hunter Biden left the courthouse holding hands with the first lady and his wife. They did not speak to reporters, got into waiting SUVs and drove off.

After the jury’s decision was announced, President Joe Biden said he would accept the outcome of the case and “will continue to respect the judicial process as Hunter considers an appeal.” The president said he and the first lady are proud of Hunter, who has been sober since 2019.

“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,” the president said in a statement.

In a written statement following the verdict, Hunter Biden said he was disappointed by the outcome but grateful for the support of family and friends. His attorney said they will “continue to vigorously pursue all the legal challenges available.”

Jurors found Hunter Biden guilty of 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.

Now Hunter Biden and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, the president's chief political rival, have both been convicted by American jurors in an election year that has been as much about the courtroom as about campaign events and rallies.

Joe Biden steered clear of the federal courtroom in Delaware where his son was tried and said little about the case, wary of creating an impression of interfering in a criminal matter brought by his own Justice Department. But allies of the Democrat have worried about the toll that the trial — and now the conviction — will take on the 81-year-old, who has long been concerned with his only living son’s health and sustained sobriety.

Hunter Biden and Trump have both argued they were victimized by the politics of the moment. But while Trump has continued to falsely claim the verdict was “rigged,” Joe Biden has said he would accept the verdict and would not seek to pardon his son.

The verdict came shortly before the president was scheduled to give a speech on his administration’s efforts to limit gun violence at a conference hosted by the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund in Washington.

Hunter Biden’s legal troubles aren’t over. He faces a trial in September in California on charges of failing to pay $1.4 million in taxes, and congressional Republicans have signaled they will keep going after him in their stalled impeachment effort into the president. The president has not been accused or charged with any wrongdoing by prosecutors investigating his son.

The prosecution devoted much of the trial to highlighting the seriousness of Hunter Biden’s drug problem, through highly personal testimony and embarrassing evidence.

Jurors heard Hunter Biden’s ex-wife and a former girlfriend testify about his habitual crack use and their failed efforts to help him get clean. Jurors saw images of the president’s son bare-chested and disheveled in a filthy room, and half-naked holding crack pipes. Jurors also watched video of his crack cocaine weighed on a scale.

Hunter Biden did not testify, but jurors heard his voice when prosecutors played audio excerpts of his 2021 memoir, “Beautiful Things,” in which he talks about hitting bottom after the death of his brother, Beau, in 2015, and his descent into drugs before his eventually achieving sobriety.

Prosecutors felt the evidence was necessary to prove that Hunter, 54, was in the throes of addiction when he bought the gun and therefore lied when he checked “no” on the form that asked whether he was “an unlawful user of, or addicted to” drugs.

Hunter Biden’s lawyers had argued that he did not consider himself an “addict” when he bought the gun. They 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.

The trial 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 attorney general.

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

But the deal fell apart after 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, 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.

The reason law enforcement raised any questions about the revolver is because Hallie Biden, Beau’s widow, found it unloaded in Hunter’s truck on Oct. 23, 2018, panicked and tossed it into a garbage can at a grocery store, where a man inadvertently fished it out of the trash. She testified about the episode in court.

Hallie Biden, who had a romantic relationship with Hunter after Beau died, eventually called the police. Officers retrieved the gun from the man who took the gun along with other recyclables from the trash. The case was eventually closed because of lack of cooperation from Hunter Biden, who was considered the victim.

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