Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Thursday, July 4, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Hunter Biden convicted on federal firearms charges

During the trial, prosecutors had no shortage of evidence for their case, in large part due to Hunter Biden’s openness about his own earlier drug use.

WILMINGTON, Del. (CN) — A 12-person jury on Tuesday convicted Hunter Biden on all three counts against him following his federal gun trial.

The first child of a sitting president to face charges, Hunter Biden was found guilty of lying to a federally licensed gun dealer, lying on a federal form and possessing a gun while using or being addicted to a controlled substance.

"Ultimately, this case was not just about addiction — a disease that haunts families across the United States, including Hunter Biden's family," said special counsel David Weiss, who brought the charges against Hunter Biden, shortly after the verdict was announced. "This case was about the illegal choices defendant made while in the throes of addiction, his choice to lie on a federal 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 also reiterated that "no one is above the law," adding that "Hunter Biden should be no more accountable than any other citizen convicted of this same conduct."

Following his conviction, Hunter Biden released a statement expressing gratitude for those close to him — including his wife, Melissa Cohen, who sat in on the entirety of his trial.

"I am more grateful today for the love and support I experienced this last week from Melissa, my family, my friends, and my community than I am disappointed by the outcome," he wrote. "Recovery is possible by the grace of God, and I am blessed to experience that gift one day at a time."

Hunter Biden's lead defense attorney Abbe Lowell wrote that he and Biden's team are "naturally disappointed" by the guilty verdict but respect the jury process and will pursue all legal challenges that are available, as they have throughout the case.

"Through all he has been through in his recovery, including this trial, Hunter has felt grateful for and blessed by the love and support of his family," Lowell said.

President Joe Biden expressed his support for his son in a statement following the verdict.

"Jill and I love our son, and we are so proud of the man he is today," he said. "So many families who have had loved ones battle addiction understand the feeling of pride seeing someone you love come out the other side and be so strong and resilient in recovery."

The president added that he "will accept the outcome of this case and will continue to respect the judicial process as Hunter considers an appeal."

Following the verdict, White House officials said the president would spend the evening in Delaware to be with Hunter Biden and other family members.

Verdict announced in court

Hunter Biden stared at the jury with wide eyes as the verdict was read Tuesday morning by a court employee. Following the verdict, Hunter Biden smiled at his defense attorney before embracing him, then kissed his wife, Melissa Cohen, before leaving the courtroom.

First Lady Jill Biden was not in the courtroom when the verdict was read, but was seen hurriedly entering the courthouse after proceedings adjourned. Hunter Biden, Jill Biden and Cohen left the courthouse and drove away together at about 11:35 a.m.

U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika set a tentative sentencing date for 120 days from Tuesday. Hunter Biden faces up to 25 years in prison, although legal experts say several factors — including his lack of prior convictions and yearslong sobriety — will likely result in a shorter sentence.

Prosecutors say Hunter Biden lied about his drug use on a federal form when he purchased a Colt Cobra .38 special revolver on Oct. 12, 2018, at a gun shop north of Wilmington. 

ADVERTISEMENT

While the trial at J. Caleb Boggs Federal Courthouse lasted only seven days, Hunter Biden has fought the case in court since June 2023, when he was first charged. That month, he and the Justice Department began discussing a plea deal that would have allowed Biden an opportunity to avoid criminal prosecution.

First lady Jill Biden arrives to federal court on hearing there is a verdict, Tuesday, June 11, 2024, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

However, those talks quickly stalled after Judge Noreika, a Trump appointee, raised several questions about the deal’s logistics, highlighting stark differences between prosecutors and defense attorneys over the possibility of an immunity provision. The two sides couldn't find a compromise, and Hunter Biden was formally indicted on Sept. 14, 2023.

Hunter Biden’s counsel repeatedly submitted motions to throw out the indictment between then and the trial’s June 3 start date, but Noreika rejected each of them.

Building the case against Hunter Biden

During the trial, prosecutors had no shortage of evidence for their case, in large part due to Hunter Biden’s openness about his own earlier drug use.

Prosecutors played about an hour of Hunter Biden’s self-narrated memoir, “Beautiful Things,” using his own words against him to paint a picture of a yearslong crack-cocaine addiction between 2015 and 2019.

Additionally, prosecutors presented several text and WhatsApp messages obtained from both Hunter Biden’s iCloud account and through his laptop, which was infamously left at a Delaware computer repair shop in late 2020.

Some of the texts contained coded language such as “baby powder,” “party favor” and “chore boy,” which expert witness and Drug Enforcement Administration agent Joshua Romik testified were references to cocaine and paraphernalia.

Other messages were notably more explicit. In one message sent on Oct. 13, 2018 — one day after Hunter Biden purchased the revolver — he wrote about “waiting for a dealer named Mookie” in a 7-Eleven parking lot. In another message sent a day later, he wrote, he was “sleeping on a car smoking crack.”

The prosecution’s case also relied heavily on testimony from Hunter Biden’s former partners, who attested to his longstanding crack addiction before, during and after the time he bought the firearm.

Zoe Kestan, his ex-partner, testified Wednesday to Hunter Biden’s consistent crack smoking habit from when she met him in 2017 through 2018, including on Sept. 22 — less than three weeks before he purchased the firearm.

Hallie Biden — Hunter Biden’s sister-in-law and former girlfriend — also testified about finding Hunter’s revolver in the center console of his truck on Oct. 23, 2018, 11 days after he purchased the gun.

She told the jury she was cleaning Hunter’s pickup truck that morning as he slept in her Delaware home. As she inspected the car's interior, she discovered the revolver stashed in the truck’s unlocked center console, along with bullets, remnants of crack cocaine and drug paraphernalia, she said.

Hallie Biden quickly placed the gun and bullets in a pouch before throwing it out in a nearby grocery store trash can, she said. Within hours, a can collector had found the gun and taken it home, later returning it to police, who left it in storage for years before it would become key evidence in the FBI’s investigation into Hunter Biden. 

Representing Hunter Biden in court, defense attorney Abbe Lowell repeatedly emphasized the prosecution’s “very high” burden of proof, telling jurors during closing statements that the prosecution had played a “magician’s trick” by diverting attention to the months and years before Hunter Biden’s firearm purchase.

“They blurred all those years,” he said.

During his cross-examination of Romik, Lowell suggested data showing Hunter Biden’s near-daily hundred- or thousand-dollar ATM withdrawals didn’t equate to amounts typical of a drug user. Romik quickly corrected Lowell, stating to the court that the withdrawals actually do match what could be expected of an addicted person.

Additionally, Lowell asked Romik if Hunter Biden ever sent messages using coded drug language between August and November 2018, around the time he purchased the firearm.

While Romik agreed that Hunter Biden had not done so, he added that both the Oct. 13 text about “waiting for a dealer named Mookie” and the Oct. 14 text that he was “sleeping on a car smoking crack” were so explicit that they didn’t require interpretation.

“With the exception of the October texts where he said that he was smoking crack,” Romik answered.

Hunter Biden also faces nine federal tax-related charges, including tax evasion. He has pleaded not guilty on all counts and is scheduled to face trial in California in September.

Categories / Criminal, National, Politics, Trials

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.

Loading...