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Jury selected in Hunter Biden gun trial

Hunter Biden, the president's son, goes on trial this week on federal gun charges in Delaware.
Kent Nishimura
/
Getty Images
Hunter Biden, the president's son, goes on trial this week on federal gun charges in Delaware.

President Biden's son Hunter Biden goes on trial this week on federal gun charges for allegedly lying about his illegal drug use when he bought a Colt revolver in the fall of 2018.

The trial, which opens Monday in federal court in Delaware with jury selection, is the first of two cases brought by Justice Department special counsel David Weiss against the president’s son. The second prosecution is on tax charges and is scheduled to go to trial in September in California.

Hunter Biden faces three counts in the gun case: two false statements for allegedly lying about his drug use when purchasing a firearm, and one for the unlawful possession of a gun by a drug user or addict. He has pleaded not guilty.

The trial is the latest courtroom drama of this election year to hold potential political implications for the 2024 presidential race.

Although Hunter Biden is not running for public office, Republicans have long sought to use his legal troubles and foreign business dealings to try to damage his father politically. The trial provides a fresh opportunity to do so.

It comes just days after his father’s opponent in the 2024 election, former President Donald Trump, was found guilty by a New York jury of falsifying business records of hush money payments made to an adult film star.

The gun case is rooted in a difficult period in Hunter Biden’s life when he was reeling after the death of his brother, Beau, and was addicted to crack cocaine and alcohol. The trial is expected to dredge up deeply personal episodes for Hunter Biden and the toll is took on the Biden family.

The case centers on a Colt Cobra revolver Hunter Biden bought at a Wilmington gun store in October 2018. Prosecutors say that Biden lied on a standard background check form when buying the gun by declaring that he was not using or addicted to illegal drugs.

Prosecutors say they intend to call around a dozen witnesses, including Biden’s ex-wife, Kathleen Buhle, and his brother’s widow, Hallie Biden, who was romantically involved with Hunter Biden after Beau’s death.

It was Hallie Biden who found the gun and threw it into a dumpster outside a Wilmington market less than two weeks after Hunter purchased the weapon. The gun was later found by a man collecting recyclables, who alerted law enforcement.

Prosecutors also intend to use excerpts from Hunter Biden’s memoir, in which he talks about his addiction to crack cocaine. Prosecutors also plan to present Biden’s own text messages in which he talks about his drug use.

Less than a year ago, it appeared as though Hunter Biden would avoid trial entirely.

He had a tentative deal with prosecutors under which he would plead guilty to tax charges and enter into a diversion agreement on the gun offenses that would have allowed him to avoid trial.

But that deal fell apart at a hearing in front of U.S. district Judge Maryellen Noreika, who expressed concerns about how the deal was structured. Biden’s legal team and prosecutors were unable to patch it back together.

Weeks later, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Weiss special counsel, and he later brought the two prosecutions against Biden.

Hunter Biden’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, has tried to get the case dismissed on various grounds, but the judge has denied them all.

He has said that the gun charges his client faces are rarely, if ever, brought under similar circumstances. He also accuses Weiss of bowing to Republican pressure in bringing both cases against Hunter Biden.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.