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Hunter Biden jury seated in his federal gun trial

Jury seated in Hunter Biden's federal gun trial
Jury seated in Hunter Biden's federal gun trial 02:59

The jury in Hunter Biden's gun trial was seated Monday afternoon by Delaware U.S. District Judge Maryellen Norieka. 

The president's son was indicted by a federal grand jury in September after a diversion agreement for a felony gun offense and a plea deal related to misdemeanor tax charges unraveled when Judge Noreika questioned whether the agreement would allow him to avoid potential future charges.

Jury selection

Twelve jurors and four alternates were sworn in, 10 women and six men, on the first day of the trial. Judge Noreika went over instructions with the jury, and opening statements will begin Tuesday. The president's son faces three felony charges stemming from his alleged illegal purchase and possession of a firearm in 2018 while he was a drug user.

Throughout jury selection, Hunter Biden was attentive, periodically taking notes. The first lady sat directly behind him, sharing the first row with his wife, Melissa Cohen Biden, half-sister Ashley Biden and Hollywood attorney and ally Kevin Morris. The first family largely did not react as jurors answered questions.

All but one juror was made aware of the case by news reports, and many said they had an immediate connection to someone struggling with drug and alcohol abuse. By 11:45 a.m., a dozen potential jurors out of 30 were excused for cause, including scheduling conflicts and political views. One person asserted gun ownership was a "God-given right," while another said her opinion of the Bidens was "not a good one." 

The defense struck another potential juror, too, a former Wilmington police officer who said he is a Fox News viewer, as well as an acquaintance of Jill Biden's, having worked with her at the college where she taught. He also said he's met Mr. Biden at multiple events and donated to a challenger to Beau Biden in his race to be Delaware attorney general. The potential juror also told the judge that he believes prosecutors file cases for political reasons, mentioning the criminal case against former President Donald Trump in New York, and when asked if "political prosecutions" ever target Democrats, he offered an emphatic "no" in response. 

Other potential jurors also answered "yes" when the judge asked "are some Department of Justice and law enforcement probes politically motivated?" Several cited Trump's New York case. 

Who attended his trial today?

First lady Jill Biden attended the trial, and as she left the main courtroom during a break in the morning, Hunter Biden hugged her and kissed her on the cheek. She returned his embrace, touching his face. Hunter Biden and his wife then exited the room holding hands.

President Biden did not attend the hearing, but he did issue a statement, declining to weigh in on the trial but offering a statement of support for his son.

"Jill and I love our son, and we are so proud of the man he is today," his statement read. "Hunter's resilience in the face of adversity and the strength he has brought to his recovery are inspiring to us. A lot of families have loved ones who have overcome addiction and know what we mean."

Pre-trial setbacks for Hunter Biden

Late Sunday night, Norieka declined to allow Hunter Biden's lawyers to admit into evidence a second version of the firearms purchase form he filled out to buy the gun. His attorney, Abbe Lowell, claimed new information had been added to that second version after the criminal investigation had begun, including information about the types of identification Hunter Biden had presented. Norieka noted in her order that on both forms, "no" was checked next to the question about whether the applicant was an "unlawful user or addict."

In a separate order the same day, Norieka also granted the government's motion to exclude one of the defense's expert witnesses, Dr. Elie Aoun, who was to testify on the nature of Hunter Biden's drug abuse and whether he understood himself to be an addict. She has reserved her opinion on whether to allow the testimony of another expert witness, Michael Lee Coyer.

Hunter Biden and his wife, Melissa Cohen Biden, arrive at court in Wilmington, Delaware
Hunter Biden, son of President Joe Biden, joined by his wife Melissa Cohen Biden, arrive at the J. Caleb Boggs Federal Building on June 3, 2024 in Wilmington, Delaware.  Photo by RYAN COLLERD/AFP via Getty Images

What are the federal gun charges against Hunter Biden?

In the three-count indictment, the president's son is charged with making false statements on a federal gun form about his drug use, certifying he was not a user of or addicted to any controlled substance during a period when prosecutors allege he was addicted to crack cocaine. Biden purchased a Colt Cobra .38 Special revolver, and it remained in his possession for 11 days before it was discarded in an outdoor receptacle by Hallie Biden, Hunter Biden's romantic partner at the time. 

Hunter Biden's attorneys have decried the charges and argued they were "unconstitutional" and "unprecedented," as well as in violation of the diversion agreement they maintain was still legally binding and valid.

A flurry of motions to dismiss filed by Hunter Biden's attorneys were denied by Judge Noreika, and a federal appeals court rejected his motion to dismiss the gun charges in May.

Prosecutors are expected to introduce evidence that details Hunter Biden's use of controlled substances leading up to and during the period he purchased the firearm. In their trial brief, they reference his own admission of drug addiction in excerpts from his memoir, Beautiful Things, as well as photos and videos from his laptop and text messages.

The government also intends to include testimony from Hunter Biden's former romantic partners recounting his substance abuse, including his ex-wife, Kathleen Buhle and Hallie Biden, the widow of his late brother, Beau Biden, and expert testimony from FBI and DEA agents.

Hunter Biden's attorneys seek to call their own expert witnesses on addiction and forensic psychiatry and forensic toxicology.

The charges were brought by special counsel David Weiss who was appointed U.S. attorney for Delaware by former President Donald Trump and named special counsel by Attorney General Merrick Garland in 2023. Federal probes into Hunter Biden, led by Weiss, spanned five years over the course of both the Trump and Biden administrations.

Attorneys for Hunter Biden asserted that Weiss "buckled under political pressure to bring more severe charges" after the plea agreement elicited a "sharp rebuke" from former President Trump and his Republican allies when it was first made public. Weiss' office slammed claims that the charges were fueled by politics and were pursued to appease Republicans.

"The charges in this case are not trumped up or because of former President Trump—they are instead a result of the defendant's own choices and were brought in spite of, not because of, any outside noise made by politicians," prosecutors said.

Hunter Biden faces up to 25 years in prison and $750,000 in fines if convicted on all counts.

Separate tax charges against Hunter Biden

Separately, he faces nine federal tax charges in the central district of California in a second indictment brought by Weiss' office where federal prosecutors allege President Biden's son engaged in a "four-year scheme" to avoid paying at least $1.4 million in federal taxes. 

Hunter Biden is charged with three felony and six misdemeanor charges related to his alleged failure to file and pay taxes, evasion of assessment, and filing a false or fraudulent tax return. Biden has pleaded not guilty to those charges. 

His motions to dismiss the federal tax charges were all denied by U.S. District Judge Mark Scarsi in April. If convicted, Hunter Biden faces up to 17 years in prison. 

References to the tax charges or questioning related to those charges or the plea hearing are not admissible in his federal gun trial in Delaware.

Robert Legare contributed to this report. 

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