Hunter Biden gun trial: Jurors begin deliberating

WILMINGTON, Del. –

Jurors in Hunter Biden’s gun trial began deliberating Monday whether the US president’s son is guilty of federal gun charges for a revolver he purchased in 2018, while prosecutors say he was addicted to crack cocaine.

Hunter Biden is charged with three felonies in the case that laid bare some of the darkest moments of his drug-fueled past. Prosecutors used testimony from former romantic partners, personal text messages and photos of Hunter Biden with drug paraphernalia or partially clothed to demonstrate that he broke the law.

“No one is above the law,” prosecutor Leo Wise told jurors during his closing argument as first lady Jill Biden looked on from the front row of the Wilmington, Delaware, courtroom.

Jurors deliberated less than an hour before leaving the courthouse for the day. Deliberations were scheduled to resume Tuesday morning.

President Joe Biden’s son has publicly detailed his struggle with a crack addiction before getting sober more than five years ago. But the defense sought to demonstrate that he did not consider himself a “drug addict” when he bought the gun and checked “no” on the form that asked if he was an “illegal user” of drugs or if he was addicted to it.

The case pits Hunter Biden against his father’s Department of Justice, in the midst of the Democratic president’s re-election campaign. The charges were brought by special counsel David Weiss, who was appointed by former Republican President Donald Trump as U.S. attorney for Delaware and led the years-long investigation.

Before the case went to the jury, the prosecutor urged jurors to focus on the “overwhelming” evidence against Hunter Biden and not pay attention to members of the president’s family sitting in the courtroom.

“None of this constitutes evidence,” Wise said, holding out his hand and ordering the jury to look into the gallery. “People sitting in the gallery are not evidence.”

First lady Jill Biden arrives at federal court on June 10, 2024. (Matt Slocum/AP Photo)

Jill Biden and other members of her family left the courthouse shortly after deliberations began. The first lady attended most of the trial, missing only a day last week to attend D-Day events with the president in France. At one point Monday, Hunter Biden leaned over a railing to whisper in his mother’s ear.

Defense attorney Abbe Lowell told jurors in his closing argument that prosecutors failed to prove their case. Lowell said the fact that his client has a famous last name doesn’t change the fact that he is presumed innocent — like any other defendant — until proven guilty.

“With my dying breath in this case, I seek the only verdict that will hold prosecutors to what the law requires of them” — a not guilty verdict, Lowell said.

Hunter Biden’s lawyers suggested he was trying to turn his life around at the time of purchasing the gun, after completing a drug and rehabilitation program in late August 2018. The defense called three witnesses, including the daughter of Hunter, Naomi, who told jurors her father seemed to improve in the weeks before purchasing the gun.

Closing arguments took place shortly after the defense finished its case without calling Hunter Biden to the witness stand. He smiled as he spoke with members of his defense team and gave a thumbs-up to one of his supporters in the gallery after the final witness — an FBI agent called by prosecutors in their rebuttal brief.

The trial highlighted a turbulent period in Hunter Biden’s life following the death of his brother in 2015. It took place in the president’s home state, where Hunter Biden grew up and where the family is deeply anchored. Joe Biden spent 36 years as a senator in Delaware, commuting daily from Washington.

Hunter Biden’s ex-wife and his two former girlfriends testified before prosecutors about his habitual crack cocaine use and their unsuccessful efforts to help him abstain. One woman, who met Hunter Biden in 2017 at a strip club where she worked, described him smoking crack about every 20 minutes while she stayed with him at a hotel.

Hunter Biden arrives at federal court with his wife, Melissa Cohen Biden, Friday, June 7, 2024 in Wilmington, Del. (Matt Slocum/AP Photo)

Jurors also heard him describe in detail his descent into addiction through audio excerpts played in court from his 2021 memoir, “Beautiful Things.” The book, written after he got sober, covers the time he had the gun but doesn’t discuss it. specifically.

A key witness for prosecutors was Beau’s widow, Hallie, who had a brief and difficult relationship with Hunter after her brother died of brain cancer. She found the unloaded gun in Hunter’s truck on October 23, 2018, panicked and threw it in the trash at a Wilmington grocery store, where a man looking for recyclables inadvertently retrieved it from the bin.

The prosecutor pointed to text messages that he said show Hunter trying to make drug deals around the time of the gun purchase. In one message, Hunter told Hallie that he smoked crack. “This is my truth,” Hunter wrote.

“Take the defendant at his word. It’s his truth,” Wise said. He urged jurors to reject the defense’s suggestion that Hunter didn’t really mean what he was sending at the time and was just trying to avoid being with Hallie.

“You don’t leave your common sense behind when you walk into that jury box,” Wise said.

The defense told jurors there were no actual witnesses to Hunter’s drug use during the 11 days he had the gun. Lowell also sought to discredit the testimony of Hallie and another ex-girlfriend. He asked jurors to consider their testimony “with great care and caution,” noting that they had benefited from immunity deals in exchange for appearing on the witness stand for prosecutors.

Joe Biden said last week he would accept the jury’s verdict and ruled out a pardon for his son. Returning from France, the president was at home in Wilmington for the day and was expected in Washington in the evening for a concert on June 19. He was due to travel to Italy later this week for the Group of Seven leaders’ conference.

Last summer, it looked like Hunter Biden would avoid prosecution in the gun case altogether, but a deal with prosecutors imploded after the judge, appointed to the bench by former Republican President Donald Trump, raised concerns about this. Hunter Biden was later indicted on three gun-related criminal charges. He also faces a trial scheduled for September on criminal charges alleging he failed to pay at least $1.4 million in taxes over four years.

If convicted in the gun case, he faces up to 25 years in prison, although first-time offenders fall far short of the maximum sentence, and it is unclear whether the judge would impose a sentence behind bars.

Richer reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Mike Catalini in Wilmington and Colleen Long in Washington contributed to this report.