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Hunter Biden found guilty of illegally buying and owning a gun

Biden was convicted of lying about being drug-free when he purchased and briefly owned a gun while he was addicted to crack cocaine

APTOPIX Hunter Biden

Hunter Biden, accompanied by his wife, Melissa Cohen Biden, arrives to federal court on hearing there is a verdict, Tuesday, June 11, 2024, in Wilmington, Del (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Matt Rourke/AP

By Matt Hamilton
Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — Hunter Biden, the president’s son, was convicted Tuesday of lying about being drug-free when he purchased and briefly owned a gun while he was addicted to crack cocaine.

The guilty verdict, handed down by a federal jury in Delaware after about three hours of deliberations, capped a week-long trial in which prosecutors elicited testimony from Biden’s ex-wife, an ex-girlfriend and his sister-in-law turned lover, who all spoke in graphic detail about his addiction to drugs and alcohol, with First Lady Jill Biden often sitting in the front row.

Biden was on trial for three felony charges, and the jury convicted him of all three: lying on a federal background check form about his crack habit in order to buy a Colt revolver, giving a false statement to a federal firearms dealer and possessing a gun while being an illicit drug user.

As the verdict was read by Judge Maryellen Noreika’s clerk, Biden sat impassively. Afterward, he kissed his wife, Melissa, and hugged his lawyer, Abbe Lowell.

The proceeding was swift, with the first lady reaching the courthouse only after it had concluded. Wearing sunglasses, she walked toward the room where her son was huddled with other relatives and his legal team.

Afterward, President Biden said he accepted the outcome of the case and would continue to respect the judicial process while his son appeals the verdict.

“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,” he said in a statement. Lowell said in a statement that he was “disappointed” by the jury’s decision and would “continue to vigorously pursue all the legal challenges available.”

Holding the hands of his mother and wife, Hunter Biden, 54, left the J. Caleb Boggs Federal Building in downtown Wilmington without speaking to reporters and issued a brief statement saying he was “more grateful today” for his wife and family’s support “than I am disappointed by the outcome.”

David Weiss, the Special Counsel, said Tuesday afternoon that the case was about more than the well-documented drug and alcohol addiction of Hunter Biden.

“This case was about the illegal choices defendant made while in the throes of addiction, his choice to lie on a government form when he bought a gun, and the choice to then possess that gun,” said Weiss. “No one in this country is above the law. Everyone must be accountable for his actions — even this defendant.”

Biden’s sentencing was not scheduled but the judge said it would likely occur in about 120 days. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison, but as a non-violent first-time offender, Biden would be unlikely to serve much, if any, time in custody.

In an election year, the verdict was sure to be seized on by political opponents of Hunter’s father and to be spun as a vindication for Republican leaders who last year criticized a plea deal on similar charges. The deal unraveled under questioning by Noreika — the same judge who presided over the trial — and paved the way for the indictment on the gun charges.

A second criminal trial for Hunter Biden is scheduled for September in Los Angeles, where the Malibu resident faces federal charges of tax evasion and failing to pay his taxes on time.

Biden’s conviction comes less than two weeks after his father’s opponent in the presidential election, Donald Trump, was convicted by a New York jury of falsifying business records in a scheme to illegally influence the 2016 election through hush money payments to a porn actor who said the two had sex.

The president’s reaction was a sharp contrast to Trump, who has repeatedly attacked the judge overseeing his New York hush money case and decried the outcome as “rigged” by Biden and his allies.

The testimony in the Hunter Biden gun case largely centered on Biden’s answer to a question on the background check form on Oct. 12, 2018 , which asked: “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?”

Hunter checked “No.”

Lowell, the defense attorney, emphasized the limited evidence of Biden’s drug use around the time he purchased the revolver, that the gun salesman did not perceive him to be under the influence or glassy-eyed, and that no witness saw him using drugs in the days after, when he owned the gun.

Lowell contended that the gun was never fired and remained locked up until Hunter’s brother’s widow, Hallie Biden, found it on the morning of Oct. 23, 2018, and in a panic, disposed of it in a trash bin outside a nearby grocery store. Hunter, who was dating Hallie at the time, urged her to retrieve the gun once he discovered it missing, asking her, “Are you insane?”

But when Hallie Biden returned to the supermarket, the gun was gone from the trash can, and Hunter instructed her to contact police.

“It’s time to end this case,” Lowell said Monday in his closing argument.

But prosecutors told jurors that there was “overwhelming evidence” of Hunter Biden’s drug use in the years before and the months after the gun purchase.

“If this evidence did not establish that Hunter Biden is a crack addict and an unlawful user, then no one is a crack addict and an unlawful user,” said Asst. Special Counsel Derek Hines in his closing argument.

Hunter’s ex-wife, Kathleen Buhle, testified that she found a crack pipe in 2015 at their home and would regularly search his car for drug paraphernalia. Zoe Kestan, a former girlfriend, told jurors about the night she met Hunter at a Manhattan gentleman’s club, where she was working at the time.

Within minutes of going to a private room with him in 2018, she recalled, he began smoking crack. That night kicked off a bicoastal relationship where the pair holed up in a string of luxury hotels — the SoHo Grand, the Mercer, Four Seasons in Manhattan, the Chateau Marmont and the Roosevelt in Hollywood — where he abused crack every 20 minutes and summoned dealers to feed his habit, Kestan testified.

Hallie Biden’s turn on the witness stand may have proven the most critical.

Prosecutors highlighted that in response to her phone calls and text messages asking him where he was in mid-October 2018, two days after buying the gun, Hunter replied that he was “smoking crack” in downtown Wilmington.

Hallie Biden testified that she saw Hunter Biden either late in the night or early in the morning on Oct. 23, 2018 and that he looked exhausted. Inside his truck, she said, she discovered drug paraphernalia and “remnants” of crack cocaine, along with the gun. She put the gun inside a leather pouch that she said she found in his vehicle — the same pouch that federal investigators tested last year, finding trace amounts of cocaine.

Under cross-examination by Lowell, Hallie Biden’s memory appeared shaky at times — she couldn’t say what “paraphernalia” she found in the car, and she acknowledged that Hunter often lied to her about his whereabouts. She also said she did not see Hunter Biden use drugs in this time period.

But her testimony seemed to undercut defense attorneys’ contention that Hunter Biden was sober when he owned the Colt revolver.

“He said he was ‘smoking crack,’ ” Hines reminded jurors in his closing argument. Pointing to this and Hunter Biden’s candid 2021 memoir, “Beautiful Things,” which offers a searing account of his addiction to crack and subsequent recovery, Hines said: “Believe his words in his book because he knew ... he was an addict and an unlawful user.”

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