Hunter Biden convicted of lying about drug use to buy gun

US President Joe Biden with his son Hunter Biden, who earlier in the day was found guilty on all three counts in his criminal gun charges trial, after the president arrived at the Delaware air national guard base in New Castle, Delaware on June 11 2024.
US President Joe Biden with his son Hunter Biden, who earlier in the day was found guilty on all three counts in his criminal gun charges trial, after the president arrived at the Delaware air national guard base in New Castle, Delaware on June 11 2024.
Image: Anna Rose Layden/Reuters

President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden was convicted by a jury on Tuesday of lying about his illegal drug use to buy a gun, making him the first child of a sitting US president to be convicted of a crime.

A 12-member jury in Wilmington, Delaware, which is the Bidens' hometown, found the defendant guilty on all three counts against him.

Biden, 54, nodded his head after the verdict was read but otherwise showed little reaction. He then patted his lawyer Abbe Lowell on the back and hugged another member of his legal team.

First lady Jill Biden and Hunter's wife Melissa held his hands as they left the courtroom.

Lowell said they would "vigorously pursue all the legal challenges available to Hunter", who Biden faces a separate tax case in California.

Biden, seen at a Wilmington food hall after the verdict, referred Reuters reporters to his statement when asked for further comment but said “all is good”.

“How could it not be?” he added, motioning to a child on his lap he did not identify.

The trial took place against the background of a November 5 election pitting Democrat Joe Biden against his Republican predecessor Donald Trump, who was himself found guilty in a landmark New York state trial last month.

During the trial prosecutors offered an intimate view of Biden’s years of struggle with alcohol and crack cocaine abuse, which they said legally precluded him from buying a gun.

After about three hours of deliberation, the jurors found he falsely claimed to be free of illegal drugs when he filled in a government screening document for a revolver in 2018 and illegally possessed the weapon.

Biden said he was more grateful for the love and support he had received than he was disappointed by the guilty verdict. He said he was "blessed" to experience the gift of recovery "one day at a time".

US district judge Maryellen Noreika set no date for sentencing, but said it would usually be within 120 days. That would place it no later than about a month before the US  presidential election.

President Biden issued a statement saying he accepted the outcome of the case and would respect the judicial process as his son considers an appeal.

Hours after the verdict, Hunter and his wife and son met the president's helicopter when it landed at a Delaware air national guard base in New Castle. The president embraced his son and hugged and kissed his daughter-in-law and grandchild.

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

In an audio interview with CNN, a juror identified only as No 10  said: "In deliberating, we were not thinking of the sentencing and I really don't think Hunter belongs in jail".

The juror said: "No politics came into play and politics was not even spoken about. The first family was not spoken about. It was all about Hunter."

The trial followed the May 30 criminal conviction of Trump, the first former US president to be found guilty of a felony.

Trump, convicted on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to cover up a sex scandal, has claimed without evidence that the multiple criminal prosecutions he faces have been orchestrated by president Biden in a bid to block his reelection.

On Tuesday, Trump's campaign showed no signs of changing its tack.

“This trial has been nothing more than a distraction from the real crimes of the Biden Crime Family," Trump campaign spokesperson Karoline Leavitt said.

Congressional Democrats had pointed to the Hunter Biden trial, as well as ongoing federal prosecutions of two Democratic members of Congress, as evidence president Biden was not using the legal system for partisan ends.

The president himself said last week he would not pardon his son if convicted.

The Delaware trial included prosecution testimony by Hunter’s ex-wife, former girlfriend and sister-in-law, who gave firsthand accounts of his spiraling addiction in the weeks before and after he bought the gun.

Prosecutors also showed text messages, photos and bank records they said showed he was deep in the throes of addiction when he bought the gun and knowingly broke the law by answering “no” to being a drug user on a government screening form.

His lawyers sought to show he was not using drugs when he bought the gun and did not intend to deceive because he didn’t consider himself a drug user when he completed the form.

The defence called his daughter, Naomi Biden, who testified her father seemed to be doing well when she saw him shortly before and after he bought the gun.

The case was brought by US department of justice special counsel David Weiss, a Trump appointee.

At a press conference afterwards, Weiss said the case was not only about addiction but also about the illegal choices Biden made while in the throes of addiction.

"His choice to lie on a government form when he bought a gun, and the choice to then possess that gun. It was these choices, and the combination of guns and drugs, that made his conduct dangerous," Weiss said.

He has also charged Biden with three felony and six misdemeanor tax offences in California, alleging he failed to pay $1.4m in taxes between 2016 and 2019 while spending millions on drugs, escorts, exotic cars and other high-ticket items.

Hunter has pleaded not guilty to those charges. A trial is scheduled for September 5 in Los Angeles.



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