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Jurors begin deliberations in Hunter Biden's criminal gun case

Published 06/10/2024, 06:03 AM
Updated 06/10/2024, 06:17 PM
© Reuters. Hunter Biden, son of U.S. President Joe Biden, departs the federal court during his trial on criminal gun charges in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., June 7, 2024. REUTERS/Hannah Beier/ File Photo

By Jack Queen and Tom Hals

WILMINGTON, Delaware (Reuters) -The jury began deliberations on Monday in the case of Hunter Biden, the U.S. president's son accused of lying about his use of illegal drugs when he bought a handgun in 2018.

The 12 jurors deliberated for about an hour after hearing closing arguments. They will resume at 9 a.m. ET (1300 GMT) on Tuesday, a court official said.

"We ask you find the law applies equally to this defendant as it would to anyone else," government prosecutor Derek Hines told the jury as the first criminal trial of a child of a sitting president reached its final phase.

"When he chose to lie and buy a gun he violated the law. We ask you return the only verdict supported by the evidence - guilty," Hines said.

Biden, 54, the son of President Joe Biden, has pleaded not guilty to felony charges that include lying about his addiction when he filled out a government screening document for a Colt Cobra revolver and illegally possessing the weapon for 11 days.

Defense attorney Abbe Lowell compared the government's case to the work of a magician who focuses attention on drug use from months or years before the gun purchase to create the illusion Hunter Biden was a user of crack cocaine when he bought the gun.

"They blurred all those years before he walked into StarQuest Shooters and all those years after," Lowell told jurors, referring to the gun store where he made the purchase.

U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika instructed jurors to be impartial. "You have to decide the case based on the evidence," she told them.

Over four days of testimony last week prosecutors offered an intimate view of the younger Biden’s years of struggle with alcohol and crack cocaine abuse, which prosecutors say legally precluded him from buying a gun.

In the prosecution's closing arguments, a government attorney said commonsense understanding of the grim testimony of Hunter Biden's constant drug use filled in any gaps in evidence about his behavior around the time of the gun purchase.

"It was personal and it was ugly and it was overwhelming," federal prosecutor Leo Wise told the jury, referring to the testimony of Hunter Biden's drug use. "But it was also necessary."

The trial in U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Delaware, follows another historic first - the May 30 criminal conviction of Donald Trump, the first U.S. president to be found guilty of a felony. Trump is the Republican challenger to Joe Biden, a Democrat, in a Nov. 5 presidential election.

Trump and some of his Republican allies in Congress have alleged the case and three other criminal prosecutions are politically motivated attempts to prevent him from regaining power.

Congressional Democrats cite the Hunter Biden prosecution as evidence that Joe Biden is not using the justice system for political or personal ends.

Wise said it did not matter if well-known people appeared in court or how they reacted to the evidence, a possible reference to first lady Jill Biden's attendance. “None of that matters. What matters came from the witness stand,” he said.

Last week, Hunter Biden’s ex-wife, former girlfriend and sister-in-law testified for the prosecution about his drug use, telling jurors that they often found drugs and paraphernalia in his possession and were concerned at times about his spiraling addiction.

Wise read passages of Hunter Biden's memoir about a failed attempt to get clean and relapsing into drug use, just before he bought the gun. "Take the defendant's word for it. That's his truth," Wise said.

© Reuters. Hunter Biden, son of U.S. President Joe Biden, walks outside the federal court on the day of his trial on criminal gun charges, in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., June 10, 2024. REUTERS/Hannah Beier

Hunter Biden told the judge overseeing the case at a 2023 hearing that he has been sober since 2019.

The sentencing guidelines for the charges against Biden are 15 to 21 months, but legal experts say defendants in cases similar to his often get shorter sentences and are less likely to be incarcerated if they abide by the terms of their pretrial release.

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