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What was Hunter Biden on trial for? The gun charges against him, explained

Hunter Biden guilty on 3 counts in gun trial
Hunter Biden found guilty on all 3 counts in gun trial 03:23

Washington — Hunter Biden's gun trial detailed his drug use through his own text messages and memoir, as well as the testimony of his exes, as prosecutors accused him of lying on paperwork to obtain a firearm and allegedly possessing the gun illegally while he was in the throes of addiction. 

President Biden's son could face decades behind bars following his conviction by a 12-member jury in Wilmington, Delaware, on three felony charges. He is expected to be sentenced in roughly four months, though no date has been set. Here are the accusations that were leveled against him. 

What was Hunter Biden accused of? 

Hunter Biden was indicted on three felony gun charges in September after a proposed plea deal with federal prosecutors unraveled

He is accused of illegally purchasing and possessing a gun while he was addicted to crack cocaine. Federal law prohibits users of illegal drugs from owning firearms. 

Prosecutors allege the president's son lied about his drug use on a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives form when he bought a revolver, speed loader and ammunition on Oct. 12, 2018, from StarQuest Shooters and Survival Supply, a gun store in Wilmington. 

Hunter Biden owned the Colt Cobra .38 handgun for 11 days before his brother's widow, Hallie Biden, with whom he was romantically involved at the time, found it in the console of his truck and discarded it in a trash can outside a grocery store. 

"I panicked," Hallie Biden testified. "I realize it was a stupid idea now. But I was panicking." 

After she disposed of the gun, she testified that she was going to "pretend" that she didn't do it, but Hunter Biden texted her about the missing gun. 

"Are you insane," he allegedly texted her on Oct. 23, 2018, according to text messages read aloud during the trial. "Tell me now. This is no game. And you're being totally irresponsible and unhinged."

"It's hard to believe anyone is that stupid," he allegedly wrote in another message. 

Hallie Biden went back to that trash can to retrieve the gun, but it was gone. An elderly man looking for recyclables found the gun and took it home. Delaware police later recovered the gun from the man. 

Years later, prosecutors charged Hunter Biden with gun crimes as they pursued unrelated tax charges against him.

What was Hunter Biden charged with? 

Two of the three counts related to the ATF paperwork Hunter Biden filled out when he purchased the gun. The form includes questions about a person's criminal record, whether they are buying the gun for themselves or someone else, their drug use and mental health. Hunter Biden is charged with making a false statement on the application by saying he was not a drug user and lying to a licensed gun dealer. 

The third count related to his possession of the gun. Prosecutors say he knowingly possessed the gun for 11 days as he was battling an addiction to illegal drugs, a violation of federal law. 

"On October 12, 2018, when the defendant filled out that form, he knew he was a drug addict," prosecutor Derek Hines said during opening statements this week. "The law does not require us to prove that he was using drugs on that very day. Just that he knew he was a drug user or a drug addict." 

Hunter Biden's attorneys argued that prosecutors must prove that he was using drugs the day he bought the gun. The form uses the word "are," his attorney Abbe Lowell said in opening statements. 

"It does not say have you ever been. It does not say have you ever used," Lowell said. 

The defense also argued that Hunter Biden was abusing alcohol, not drugs, during that time. 

All three counts are felonies, and he could face a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and fines of up to $750,000. 

Scott MacFarlane and Clare Hymes contributed reporting. 

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