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Jurors begin deliberating in Hunter Biden’s federal gun trial

Prosecutors portrayed Hunter Biden as building his own case against himself, while defense attorneys suggested the evidence against him is weak.

WILMINGTON, Del. (CN) — After attorneys delivered their final arguments in the first federal trial of a sitting president's son, a jury of 12 Delawareans will now decide whether Hunter Biden is guilty of illegally purchasing a firearm in 2018 while using or being addicted to a controlled substance. 

Hunter faces three felonies for purchasing and possessing a Colt Cobra revolver. Prosecutors say he lied on a federal form when he purchased the revolver on Oct. 12, 2018, at a gun shop north of Wilmington, Delaware. Hunter claimed on the form he was drug-free at the time, but bank receipts, text messages and his own memoir suggest otherwise, prosecutors say.

The 54-year-old defendant faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted on all counts: lying to a federally licensed gun dealer, making a false claim on a federal firearms application and illegally possessing a firearm.

He apparently marked "no" on a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives form asking whether he was a user of or addicted to illegal drugs while buying a .38 special revolver on Oct. 12, 2018, at a gun shop north of Wilmington, Delaware.

Prosecutors say Hunter Biden dug his own grave via text messages, memoir excerpts

During the prosecution's closing statement, U.S. attorney Leo Wise compiled Hunter Biden's text messages, former lovers' testimony and Hunter's own account of events to showcase a yearslong history of drug abuse in and around October 2018, when he purchased the revolver.

"To be clear, the evidence was personal, it was ugly and it was overwhelming," Wise told the jury. "But it was also necessary."

Above all other evidence stood the testimony of Hunter Biden's former partner, Zoe Kestan, Wise said. Kestan provided the court detailed accounts of Hunter Biden's crack cocaine habit between December 2017 and November 2018 — including his active use in late September, about two weeks before he bought the revolver.

"You could convict on those facts alone," Wise said.

While Hunter Biden's defense attorney have pointed to his August 2018 stay at The View rehabilitation center as indicative of his sobriety, Wise highlighted this and several other stints in rehab as proof that Hunter Biden knew himself to be an addict.

"That's why he went to rehab — he couldn't stop on his own," Wise said.

Wise also referenced what he described as a "searingly honest" passage in Hunter Biden's memoir, "Beautiful Things," that speaks about relapsing two weeks after his stay at The View. By combining this account with text messages indicating plans for a drug deal in early October, Wise argued, Hunter Biden ultimately incriminated himself.

"Take the defendant's word for it," Wise added. "His word is proof."

Biden’s attorneys claim the government used smoke and mirrors to conceal lack of evidence

In a lengthy and highly theatrical closing statement, defense attorney Abbe Lowell emphasized the prosecution's "very high" burden of proof, portrayed their witnessess as unreliable and said their claims boiled down to nothing more than "conjecture and suspicion."

"The proof of reasonable doubt is not on us," he said.

Lowell repeatedly told the jury that prosecutors had played a "magician's trick," diverting attention to one hand while concealing the relevant facts in the other.

To this end, Lowell said, the majority of the prosecution's case focused on Hunter Biden's drug use from 2016 through early 2018, picking back up in November 2018.

While prosecutors played approximately one hour of audio from Hunter Biden's self-narrated memoir, Lowell said, almost none of it focused on the weeks surrounding October 12 and 23, when Hunter Biden purchased and subsequently lost the firearm.

And while Kestan provided photos of Hunter Biden's cocaine and paraphernalia, no such photos were taken from August through October of 2018, Lowell noted. "They blurred all those years," Lowell added.

Lowell also questioned the validity of testimony from Kestan, Hunter's former partner Hallie Biden and former gun store salesperson Gordon Cleveland, telling the jury that they couldn't be expected to accurately recall events from six or more years ago. Lowell even suggested Kestan had "rehearsed" her testimony with prosecutors, before U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika struck the statement from the record.

A critical point for Biden's defense team, Lowell also asserted that two messages sent from Hunter to Hallie on October 13 and 14 — in which he writes about "waiting for a dealer named Mookie" and "sitting on a car smoking crack" — were intentionally untrue. Rather, Lowell argued, Hunter sent these statements as an excuse to get away from Hallie as their relationship deteriorated.

Lowell closed out his argument by referencing a statue of the U.S. Bill of Rights, which sits directly outside the courthouse in Wilmington, Delaware, by telling jurors that "those rights are what is at stake."

"We have had Hunter's life in our hands," he said. "But now, we are giving it to you."

Defense attorneys rest their case

Hunter Biden’s defense team rested its case Monday morning, opting to avoid the risk of putting the president’s son on the stand as he battles accusations he bought a firearm in the throes of a crack cocaine addiction.

Prosecutors presented brief rebuttal evidence before Judge Noreika, a Trump appointee, read jury instructions.

The weeklong trial shed an intimate light on Hunter Biden’s life at the time of the gun purchase. Testimony from three former romantic partners offered an intimate portrait of a self-destructive political scion who haunted hotel rooms, strip clubs and street corners as his drug addiction alienated him from his family and friends.

Zoe Kestan, an exotic dancer and ex-girlfriend, told the jury about drug-fueled hotel stays with the 54-year-old defendant, who smoked crack about every 20 minutes. Despite his addiction, he could easily socialize when he wasn’t under the influence.

“He was just so charming and nice,” she testified.

Hunter Biden’s ex-wife, Kathleen Buhle, testified she discovered the defendant’s crack pipe on their porch in Washington in 2015. He admitted he was using crack, she said, but she never saw him smoking it.

The defendant offered bracingly honest accounts of his struggles in text messages to loved ones, the evidence showed. He told Hallie Biden, his sister-in-law and former girlfriend, in one text message he was “sleeping on a car smoking crack” in downtown Wilmington.

He said in another message to her: “Im a drunk.”

Lead defense attorney Abbe Lowell, a prominent D.C.-based lawyer for Winston & Strawn, has fought to punch holes in the case while cross-examining witnesses, but Naomi Biden, the eldest daughter of Hunter Biden and Buhle, was the only witness the defense called.

She testified Friday she met her father and his “sober coach” for lunch in late August 2018, during his stay at a rehabilitation center in Los Angeles.

"He seemed like the clearest he had been since my uncle died," she said, referencing her father's relapse following the 2015 death of his brother, Beau Biden.

Follow @SteveGarrisonPC
Categories / Criminal, National, Politics, Trials

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