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Hunter Biden found guilty on federal gun charges

In World
June 11, 2024

WILMINGTON, Delaware — Hunter Biden, the son of President Joe Biden, was found guilty Tuesday of three felony charges stemming from his purchase of a handgun in 2018.

Biden, 54, is the first child of a sitting U.S. president ever to be convicted in a criminal trial. The president said last week that he would not pardon his son.

The jury of six men and six women issued its unanimous verdict after three hours of deliberations.

Biden faces a maximum prison sentence of 25 years but is much more likely to receive two years or less — or even no prison time at all, because he is a first-time offender and the crimes involved only a single gun that was never used violently. Judge Maryellen Noreika, who oversaw the trial, will determine the sentence at a hearing in the next few months.

Biden also faces federal criminal charges for allegedly failing to pay more than $1.4 million in taxes on time. A trial in that case is scheduled to begin in September in Los Angeles. Special counsel David Weiss brought both the gun case and the tax case after years of investigating the president’s son.

The gun-related charges spawned from Biden’s purchase of a Colt revolver at a Wilmington gun shop in October of 2018. At the time, prosecutors said, Biden was in the throes of addiction to crack cocaine. Prosecutors alleged that he signed paperwork at the time of the purchase falsely claiming he did not use illegal drugs. It is illegal for drug users to possess guns, and it is illegal to lie on gun-purchasing forms.

Prosecutors said Biden possessed the gun for 11 days before his brother’s widow, Hallie Biden, found it and threw it in a trash can outside a high-end grocery store. A man who scavenges through trash cans for recyclables then found the gun and later provided it to police.

Biden is sure to appeal the conviction. In pretrial motions, his lawyers contended that the federal law barring drug users from having guns is unconstitutional under the Supreme Court’s increasingly expansive view of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Noreika, a Trump appointee, rejected the constitutional argument, but Biden’s team is expected to raise it again on appeal.

The trial began on June 3. Among the witnesses called by prosecutors were three of Biden’s former romantic partners, all of whom testified about his frequent drug use in 2018.

The trial reached its emotional apex on Friday, when one of Biden’s daughters, Naomi Biden, took the stand for the defense to testify about his condition around the time that he bought the gun. She said she saw him in New York shortly after the date he bought the gun, and that he seemed to be doing well.

But during cross-examination, prosecutor Leo Wise confronted her with text messages she exchanged with her father when he was in the city. In one exchange, he texted her around midnight and again around 2 a.m., seeking to retrieve a borrowed truck. In another exchange, she told her father, “I’m really sorry, Dad. I just can’t take this.”

When she texted her father that she missed him and wanted to see him, he apologized for being “unreachable.”

Hunter Biden declined to testify in his own defense.

His conviction is sure to be a source of deep pain for the president, who has long worried about the impact of the case on his only surviving son. The president fears not only that his son may be incarcerated, but also that the case could imperil his sobriety.

The verdict comes just weeks before the first presidential debate, scheduled for June 27. The president will face another man who is a newly convicted felon: former President Donald Trump. It’s the latest episode of a campaign season that has become inextricably linked with the criminal justice system, though the Trump campaign was largely silent during the Biden trial after years of attacks on the president’s son.

Biden nearly avoided facing trials on both the gun charges and the tax charges. Last year, Weiss’ office and Biden’s legal team struck a tentative deal in which Biden would have pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges and submitted to drug testing and other monitoring. Under the deal, prosecutors would have deferred the gun charges and eventually dropped them if Biden remained out of trouble.

But the deal fell apart after Noreika asked questions about its details.

Biden’s lawyers have contended that Weiss — a federal prosecutor originally appointed by Trump — brought overly harsh charges in both cases as a result of pressure from Republicans.

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