© 2024 Ideastream Public Media

1375 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
(216) 916-6100 | (877) 399-3307

WKSU is a public media service licensed to Kent State University and operated by Ideastream Public Media.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Hunter Biden found guilty on all counts

Hunter Biden, President Biden's son, departs from the J. Caleb Boggs Federal Building on Monday in Wilmington, Del., after jurors began deliberations in his trial on felony gun charges.
Anna Moneymaker
Getty Images
Hunter Biden, President Biden's son, departs from the J. Caleb Boggs Federal Building on Monday in Wilmington, Del., after jurors began deliberations in his trial on felony gun charges.

A federal jury in Delaware has convicted President Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, on felony gun charges stemming from his purchase of a Colt revolver in 2018 when he was addicted to crack cocaine.

The verdict, handed down after three hours of deliberations, capped a weeklong trial in federal court in Wilmington, Del. The jury found Hunter Biden guilty on two counts of making false statements about his drug use when he bought the weapon, and one count of illegal possession of a firearm by a drug user or addict.

Hunter Biden showed no emotion as the judge’s courtroom deputy read out the verdict. Afterward, the president’s son hugged his attorneys, and kissed his wife, Melissa Cohen Biden, before filing out of the courtroom.

In a statement after the verdict, Hunter Biden said: “I am more grateful today for the love and support I experienced this last week from Melissa, my family, my friends, and my community than I am disappointed by the outcome."

His attorney, Abbe Lowell, said his team "will continue to vigorously pursue all the legal challenges available to Hunter."

This was the first of two cases against Hunter Biden brought by Justice Department special counsel David Weiss. The president’s son also faces tax charges in a separate prosecution scheduled to go to trial in September.

Biden has said he won't pardon his son, and on Tuesday he said in a statement: "I will accept the outcome of this case and will continue to respect the judicial process as Hunter considers an appeal."

Biden later made an unexpected trip to Wilmington where he was greeted on the tarmac by Hunter Biden, Melissa Cohen Biden and his son Beau. The president hugged them and spoke to them for several minutes.

The gun case was rooted in a difficult period in Hunter Biden’s life when he was reeling after the death of his brother, Beau, in 2015 and was addicted to crack cocaine and alcohol.

It centers on the Colt revolver that the president’s son bought at a gun store in Wilmington in October 2018. It was thrown away in a trash can outside a grocery store 11 days later.

Prosecutors said that Hunter Biden lied on the federal form every gun purchaser is required to fill out when he declared that he was not using or addicted to illegal drugs.

Over the course of the trial, prosecutors set out to prove to the jury that Hunter was a drug user at the time, that he knew it and that he lied about when he bought the gun.

Prosecutors called 10 witnesses, including three women who were at one point romantically involved with Hunter Biden: his ex-wife, Kathleen Buhle; an ex-girlfriend, Zoe Kestan; and his brother Beau’s widow, Hallie Biden.

Buhle, who was subpoenaed to testify, told the jury about first discovering her then-husband’s drug use when she found a crack pipe on the porch of their home the day after their 22nd wedding anniversary. The couple divorced in 2017.

Kestan and Hallie Biden, both of whom were granted immunity to testify, told jurors they had witnessed Hunter Biden smoke crack cocaine as well as buy it from drug dealers. Kestan also testified that she was with the president’s son in 2018 when he was cooking his own crack from powder cocaine.

Hallie Biden, meanwhile, testified about how she and Hunter Biden became romantically involved over time following the death of her husband — Hunter’s brother — in 2017. She told jurors that Hunter had introduced her to crack, and that they smoked it together — a period of her life, she said, that she was embarrassed and ashamed of.

Hunter’s own words also factored into the government’s case. Prosecutors played long excerpts from his memoir in which he describes in painful detail his spiral into addiction.

The government also presented the jury with text messages Hunter Biden sent and received between 2017 and 2019 in which he talks about using drugs, buying drugs and his addiction to crack.

That includes two text messages that he sent just days after he bought the gun. In one, he says he’s waiting for a dealer named Mookie, and in another he says he was “sleeping on a car smoking crack.”

Hunter Biden’s attorney, Lowell, has not disputed that Hunter Biden was addicted to crack cocaine and alcohol. But he has argued that his client completed a rehab program in August of 2018, and that he did not consider himself a drug user when he bought the gun on Oct. 12, 2018, or over the period that he owned it.

In his closing argument, Lowell accused prosecutors of using sleight of hand to try to hide what he said were holes in its case.

Throughout the trial, Lowell tried to focus the jury’s attention on a narrow period of time — the 11 days Hunter Biden owned the gun before Hallie Biden found it and threw it in a trash can outside a Wilmington grocery store.

Lowell repeatedly pointed out that the government has a lot of text messages from before and after October 2018 in which Hunter Biden talks about his drug use or even arranges to buy drugs — but not in October 2018.

The drug texts the government did produce dating to the period Hunter Biden owned the gun Lowell tried to diffuse as nothing more than facetious messages his client sent to Hallie Biden.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.