Hunter Biden’s lawyers rest their defense in trial on federal gun charges

WILMINGTON, Delaware — Hunter Biden’s lawyers rested their case Monday in the federal criminal trial of the president’s son, who is accused of lying about his drug use when he bought a gun in 2018, according to news reports. 

Prosecutors have argued the evidence is clear that Hunter Biden was in the throes of addiction when he checked “no” on the form at the gun shop that asked whether he was “an unlawful user of, or addicted to” drugs. 

Hunter Biden’s addiction struggles before getting sober more than five years ago are well documented. But defense lawyers argued that prosecutors failed to prove he was using drugs in the 11 days that he possessed the gun. 

The defense has suggested Hunter Biden had been trying to turn his life around at the time, completing a detoxification and rehabilitation program at the end of August 2018. His daughter Naomi took the stand for the defense last week, telling jurors about visiting him while he was at a California rehab center weeks before he bought the gun.

The defense also tried to cast doubt on the memories of the prosecution’s witnesses, pressing them about their recollection of events. 

Hunter Biden was charged with three felonies: lying to a federally licensed gun dealer, making a false claim on the application by saying he was not a drug user and illegally having the gun for 11 days. He has pleaded not guilty, 

It’s the first of two trials for Hunter Biden in the midst of his father’s Democratic reelection campaign. He also is charged with failing to pay at least $1.4 million in taxes in a case scheduled to go to trial in September in California. 

Hunter Biden has accused the Justice Department of bending to political pressure from former President Donald Trump and other Republicans to bring the gun case and the separate tax charges after a deal with prosecutors fell apart last year. 

The case has put a spotlight on a turbulent time in Hunter Biden’s life after the death of his brother, Beau, in 2015. 

Hunter Biden’s struggles with addiction before getting sober more than five years ago are well documented. But defense lawyers argue there’s no evidence he was actually using drugs in the 11 days that he possessed the gun. He had completed a rehab program weeks earlier. 

Jurors have heard emotional testimony from Hunter Biden’s former romantic partners and read personal text messages. They’ve seen photos of Hunter Biden holding a crack pipe and partly clothed, and video from his phone of crack cocaine weighed on a scale. 

His ex-wife and two former girlfriends testified for prosecutors about his habitual crack use and their failed efforts to help him get clean. One woman, who met Hunter Biden in 2017 at a strip club where she worked, described him smoking crack every 20 minutes or so while she stayed with him at a hotel. 

Hunter Biden has not taken the witness stand. But jurors have heard him describe at length his descent into addiction through audio excerpts played in court of his 2021 memoir, “Beautiful Things.” The book, written after he got sober, covers the period he had the gun but doesn’t mention it specifically. 

A key witness for prosecutors is Beau’s widow, Hallie, who had a brief troubled relationship with Hunter after his brother died of brain cancer. She found the unloaded gun in Hunter’s truck on Oct. 23, 2018, panicked and tossed it into a garbage can at a grocery store in Wilmington, where a man inadvertently fished it out of the trash. 

“I didn’t want him to hurt himself, and I didn’t want my kids to find it and hurt themselves,” Hallie Biden told jurors.

From the time Hunter returned to Delaware from a 2018 trip to California until she threw his gun away, she did not see him using drugs, Hallie told jurors. That time period included the day he bought the weapon. But jurors also saw text messages Hunter sent to Hallie in October 2018 saying he was waiting for a dealer and smoking crack. The first message was sent the day after he bought the gun. The second was sent the following day. 

The defense has suggested Hunter Biden had been trying to turn his life around at the time of the gun purchase, having completed a detoxification and rehabilitation program at the end of August 2018. 

“There is no evidence of contemporaneous drug use and a gun possession,” defense lawyer Abbe Lowell wrote in court papers filed Friday. “It was only after the gun was thrown away and the ensuing stress … that the government was able to then find the same type of evidence of his use (e.g., photos, use of drug lingo) that he relapsed with drugs.” 

Hunter Biden’s daughter Naomi took the stand for the defense Friday, telling jurors about visiting her father while he was at a California rehab center weeks before he bought the gun. She told jurors that he seemed “hopeful” and to be improving, and she told him she was proud of him. As she was dismissed from the stand, she paused to hug her dad before leaving the courtroom. 

The defense on Friday did not rule out calling one more witness, but it was unclear who that could be. Hunter’s lawyers previously said they planned to call as a witness Joe Biden’s brother, James, and he was at the courthouse on Friday. Testimony from other family members could open the door for more deeply personal messages to be introduced to the jury. 

President Joe Biden said last week that he would accept the jury’s verdict and has ruled out a pardon for his son. After flying back from France, President Biden was at his home in Wilmington for the day and was expected in Washington in the evening for a Juneteenth concert. He was scheduled to travel to Italy later this week for the Group of Seven leaders conference. 

Last summer, it looked as if Hunter Biden would avoid prosecution in the gun case altogether, but a deal with prosecutors imploded after U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika, who was nominated to the bench by Republican former President Donald Trump, raised concerns about it. Hunter Biden was subsequently indicted on three felony gun charges. He also faces a trial scheduled for September on felony 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, though first-time offenders do not get anywhere near the maximum, and it’s unclear whether the judge would give him time behind bars.