Hunter Biden’s impending gun trial mired in disagreements over evidence

24 May 2024, 22:44

Hunter Biden
Hunter Biden. Picture: PA

US President Joe Biden’s son did not speak to reporters as he followed his lawyers from the Wilmington court.

The judge overseeing Hunter Biden’s federal firearms charges trial agreed on Friday to block prosecutors from telling jurors about some other unflattering episodes from his personal life, but left the door open to allowing them in if the president’s son testifies.

It is unclear whether he would take the stand during the trial that could last up to two weeks during his father’s re-election campaign and likely include sharp disagreements over evidence.

US President Joe Biden’s son is charged with lying about his drug use in October 2018 on a form to buy a gun that he kept for about 11 days in Delaware. A trial is set to begin June 3 and could last up to two weeks as his father’s re-election campaign unfolds.

Hunter Biden has acknowledged an addiction to crack cocaine during that period, but his lawyers have said he did not break the law and the case is politically motivated.

He did not speak to reporters as he accompanied his lawyers to and from the Wilmington courthouse for a hearing on Friday.

Hunter Biden
Hunter Biden arrives for a court appearance on Friday in Wilmington, Delaware (Matt Rourke/AP)

Prosecutors won a victory on a key point as US District Judge Maryellen Noreika found that they would not have to prove that he specifically used drugs on the day of the purchase.

She agreed to a defence push to keep out other details about his past, including a child-support case in Arkansas and his dismissal from the Navy after a positive drug test.

If he does take the stand, however, “there’s a number of issues that may become more contentious,” Judge Noreika said. Prosecutors have acknowledged those episodes likely will not be relevant unless he testifies.

She also agreed to consider defence questions about the contents of a laptop that he allegedly dropped off at a Delaware repair shop.

Hunter Biden’s lawyers want to raise questions about the authenticity of the laptop’s data at trial. Prosecutors say that there is no evidence it has been compromised and that a drawn-out fight would be a waste of time.

The laptop has been the source of controversy for years after Republicans accessed and disseminated personal data from it.

Judge Noreika said she will consider objections to specific pieces of data as the trial unfolds.

Prosecutors also plan to show jurors portions of his 2021 memoir Beautiful Things, in which he detailed his struggle with alcoholism and drug abuse following the 2015 death of his older brother, Beau, of brain cancer at age 46.

Defence lawyers argued prosecutors were cherry-picking evidence, and the judge agreed to allow Biden’s lawyers to introduce wider selections.

His lawyer Abbe Lowell also says there are indications that the gun-purchase form was changed by employees after the sale. Prosecutors say there were only minor additions unrelated to the parts Hunter Biden filled out.

Judge Noreika did not immediately rule on whether the defence could introduce an altered version of the form at trial, which is expected to begin with jury selection on June 3.

Hunter Biden is also facing federal tax charges in Los Angeles and is set for trial in that case in September. He is accused of failing to pay at least 1.4 million dollars (£1.1 million) in taxes over four years while living an “extravagant lifestyle” during a period in which he has acknowledged struggling with addiction. The back taxes have since been paid.

Hunter Biden’s lawyers have pushed unsuccessfully in both cases to have them dismissed. They have argued, among other things, that prosecutors bowed to political pressure to indict him after a plea agreement ended in court and was publicly pilloried by Republicans, including former president Donald Trump, as a “sweetheart deal”.

Mr Trump, who is running to unseat the Democrat president, faces his own legal problems. He is charged in four criminal cases, including a hush money trial under way in New York.

The long-running federal investigation into the president’s son had looked ready to end with a plea deal last year, but the agreement imploded after a judge raised questions about it. Hunter Biden was subsequently indicted.

Under the deal, he would have got two years of probation after pleading guilty to misdemeanor tax charges. He also would have avoided prosecution on the gun charge if he stayed out of trouble.

By Press Association

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