Jury finds Hunter Biden guilty of 3 crimes

A jury in Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday found Hunter Biden, President Biden’s son, guilty of three counts of lying on a federal gun application, a devastating blow to the Biden family in in the middle of a ruthless presidential election campaign.

The verdict ended an extraordinary seven-day trial that made it painfully public. Biden’s crack addiction, reckless behavior and ruinous spending — recounted by three former romantic partners, including his brother’s widow, Beau Biden, and by the accused himself in the pages of his memoir.

The charges Mr. Biden was convicted of purchasing a Colt pistol in October 2018, and also included illegal possession of a weapon after falsely claiming to be drug-free during the required standard background check in all firearms transactions.

Mr. Biden, 54, faces up to 25 years in prison, although federal sentencing guidelines call for a fraction of that. First-time offenders who did not use their guns to commit violent crimes receive relatively light sentences, and prosecutors have suggested they would seek no harsher punishment than for anyone else convicted in such a case.

As the verdict was read aloud, Hunter Biden stood with his arms crossed, scanning the jury somberly. When it was all over, he hugged and kissed his wife, Melissa Cohen Biden.

“I am more grateful today for the love and support I felt last week from Melissa, my family, my friends and my community than I am disappointed with the outcome,” he declared in a press release shortly after.

Mr. Biden’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, suggested he might appeal, pledging to “vigorously pursue any legal challenges Hunter may face.”

The possible political implications of the verdict are clear. Former President Donald J. Trump, facing two federal indictments, seized on the conviction. But other Republicans expressed skepticism about the trial, and Representative Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican allied with Mr. Trump, said on social media that the conviction was “a little stupid.”

But the verdict was nothing short of a personal catastrophe for Mr. Biden.

A year ago, Mr. Biden, who has been sober since mid-2019, reached a plea deal with the government that would have allowed him to participate in a counseling program for people who commit nonviolent drug-related offenses. firearms instead of prosecution or prison time. But the deal imploded under intense questioning from the judge presiding over the case. He faces another trial in September for failing to pay his income taxes during a year of excessive crack use, drinking and spending.

The Delaware case, brought by special counsel David C. Weiss, is widely seen as the less serious of two federal indictments against Mr. Biden brought last year. But Tuesday’s guilty verdict raises the stakes for any future convictions if he is found guilty in the second trial.

Mr. Weiss, accompanied by Leo J. Wise and Derek Hines, the two prosecutors who oversaw the trial, reiterated that he brought the case because no one “is above the law.”

He has expressed sympathy for people with addictions, but in a brief appearance at his Wilmington office, he said the purchase of a gun made by Mr. Biden’s conduct is “dangerous” and deserves prosecution .

“This case was about the illegal choices he made while in the throes of addiction,” said Mr. Weiss, the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney in Delaware.

Many Republicans welcomed the prosecution of Mr. Biden, equating President Biden’s son’s legal troubles with those of Mr. Trump. But the situations are entirely different: the former president was indicted twice by federal grand juries, and on May 30 he was convicted of 34 counts in a New York state court for falsification of business records. He also faces criminal charges in Georgia for his attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

President Biden has said he will not pardon his son and has kept his distance from the trial. He changed his schedule after the verdict to visit his son in Wilmington. He is due to leave on Wednesday for the Group of 7 summit in Italy.

“I am the president, but I am also a father,” the president said in a statement. “I will accept the outcome of this case and continue to respect the legal process while Hunter considers an appeal. Jill and I will always be there for Hunter and the rest of our family with our love and support. Nothing will ever change that.

The jurors returned their verdict after just three hours and five minutes of deliberations. Their speed surprised almost everyone, including the first lady, Jill Biden.

Dr. Biden, Hunter Biden’s stepmother, who attended most days of the trial, rushed to the courthouse when she learned the jury had reached a decision, but found herself stuck in a slow security line at the door and missed the reading of the verdict. She later walked out of the courthouse hand in hand with Mr. Biden.

Hunter Biden’s uncle James Biden, one of his closest friends, was determined to get in – crowding the security line, insisting he should get priority in line journalists holding their wallets, keys and belts in front of the metal detector.

He did it.

Hunter Biden was optimistic late Monday, when the jury began deliberating. His team thought the makeup of the panel, which included several people with family histories of drug problems, would be sympathetic.

But ultimately, the government’s case was simple and the verdict was preceded by the opinion of prosecutors, who presented dozens of text messages, in addition to summoning three women, including Beau Biden’s widow, Hallie Biden, who offered gripping testimony on his simultaneous accusation. , Conflicting efforts to get clean and get more crack.

Mr. Lowell, Mr. Biden’s lawyer, countered Monday with a 90-minute closing argument that attacked the credibility of the government’s key witnesses, seeking to show that Mr. Biden was not using drugs at the precise time he asked for a gun. He accused prosecutors of peddling “suspicion” and “conjecture” and suggested the trial had less to do with justice than punishing a sober and remorseful man for the crime of drug addiction.

Congressional Republicans have attempted to tie President Biden, who was out of office most of the time covered by Hunter Biden’s two federal cases, to his son’s lucrative business deals.

But they failed to find any substantial connections after years of research and dubious claims that the president oversaw all of his son’s dealings as head of the “Biden crime family.” Just last week, House Republicans filed criminal complaints with the Justice Department, asking them to charge Hunter and James Biden with making false statements to Congress as part of the investigation. impeachment against President Biden.

Hunter Biden received millions of dollars to serve on the board of directors of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company – “and spent the money on drugs, escorts and girlfriends, luxury hotels and rental properties, exotic cars, clothing and other items of a personal nature, in brief.” , everything except his taxes,” prosecutors wrote in his indictment on the tax charges in December.

On Tuesday, Mr. Biden was convicted of three crimes: lying to a federally licensed gun dealer, making a false statement on the federal firearms application form used to screen applicants, and possessing a weapon obtained illegally for 11 days, starting October 1. 12 to Oct. 23, 2018.

Prosecutions for lying to a dealer are relatively rare, on average less than 300 per year. Between 25 and 30 million background checks were conducted each year during the time of Mr. Biden’s gun purchase, according to statistics obtained by The Washington Post.

When officials at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives reviewed Mr. Biden’s gun application several years ago, they thought the case would most likely have been abandoned if the target had been a lesser-known person, according to a former law enforcement official familiar with the situation. They emphasized two factors: the gun had not been used in a crime and Mr. Biden had taken steps to get and stay sober.

Maryellen Noreika, the judge in the case, said she would sentence Mr. Biden within four months. She will have to weigh a number of unusual factors specific to her case.

Under the United States Sentencing Commission’s guidelines, which set recommended sentencing parameters, someone in Mr. Biden’s position would typically face 15 to 21 months in prison for offenses related to the illegal receipt, possession or transportation of firearms.

From 2019 to 2023, only 48 defendants were sentenced in a category similar to Mr. Biden’s, and 92 percent were sentenced to prison with a median prison term of 15 months, according to commission data .

About 8 percent of people in this category received probation or a fine.

But judges frequently deviate from suggested guidelines when handing down a sentence and may reduce the length of detention based on the specific circumstances of each case, legal experts say.

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