US president’s son Hunter Biden convicted in gun trial

11 June 2024, 23:24

Hunter Biden departing the court
APTOPIX Hunter Biden. Picture: PA

Joe Biden has steered clear of the federal courtroom in Delaware where his son was tried.

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

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.

The jury in Wilmington, Delaware, deliberated for about three hours over two days.

President Joe Biden greets his son Hunter Biden at Delaware Air National Guard Base in New Castle
President Joe Biden greets his son Hunter Biden at Delaware Air National Guard Base in New Castle (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

Hunter Biden stared straight ahead and showed little emotion as the verdict was read. After the verdict, he hugged both of his lawyers and kissed his wife, Melissa.

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

First lady Jill Biden 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”.

Hunter Biden with his arm around his wife, Melissa Cohen Biden
Hunter Biden with his wife, Melissa Cohen Biden (Matt Slocum/AP)

“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.

His son faces up to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced by Judge Maryellen Noreika, though first-time offenders do not get anywhere near the maximum, and it is 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.

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

Hunter Biden leaves the court accompanied by his mother, first lady Jill Biden, and his wife, Melissa Cohen Biden
Hunter Biden leaves the court accompanied by his mother, first lady Jill Biden, and his wife, Melissa Cohen Biden (Matt Slocum/AP)

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

Hunter Biden’s legal troubles are not over. He faces a trial in September in California on charges of failing to pay 1.4 million dollars in taxes and congressional Republicans have signalled 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.

President Joe Biden stands in front of an American flag
President Joe Biden has steered clear of the federal courtroom in Delaware (AP)

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 dishevelled in a filthy room, and half-naked holding crack pipes. And jurors 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 eventual sobriety.

Prosecutors felt the evidence was necessary to prove that the 54-year-old 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.

Defence lawyer Abbe Lowell had argued that Hunter Biden’s state of mind was different when he wrote the book than when he bought the gun – when he did not believe he had an addiction.

Mr Lowell pointed out to jurors that some of the questions on the firearms transaction record are in the present tense, such as “are you an unlawful user of or addicted to” drugs.

And Mr Lowell suggested Hunter Biden might have felt he had a drinking problem at the time, but not a drug problem. Alcohol abuse does not preclude a gun purchase.

First lady Jill Biden arriving at the court
First lady Jill Biden arriving at the court (Matt Slocum/AP)

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 misdemeanour tax offences and avoid prosecution in the gun case if he stayed out of trouble for two years.

But the deal fell apart after Judge Noreika, who was nominated by Mr 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 US 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 that law enforcement raised any questions about the revolver is because Hallie Biden, Beau’s widow, found it unloaded in Hunter Biden’s truck on October 23 2018, panicked and threw it into a rubbish bin, where a man inadvertently fished it out. She testified about the episode in court.

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

By Press Association

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