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Hunter Biden jury returns guilty verdict in federal gun trial

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

WashingtonHunter Biden has been found guilty of all three felony counts related to his purchase and possession of a gun while he was addicted to crack cocaine.

The verdict marks the first time the child of a sitting president has been convicted of a crime. One of the jurors told CBS News after the verdict that Hunter Biden "knew what he was doing when they told him he had to fill out that application" to purchase the gun. 

"When he checked that box, he knew he was an addict," the juror said. "He knew he was using crack."  

Hunter Biden displayed very little emotion as the verdict from the 12-person Delaware jury was read, and after the verdict was delivered, he hugged his wife and reached over to his attorneys. 

In a statement after the verdict, Hunter Biden said he is "more grateful today for the love and support I experienced this last week" from his wife Melissa and the rest of his family than he is "disappointed by the outcome. Recovery is possible by the grace of God, and I am blessed to experience that gift one day at a time."   

First lady Jill Biden arrived at the courthouse after the verdict was read. The first lady and other members of the Biden family have been attending the trial, often sitting in the front row. While not mentioned by name, prosecutor Leo Wise noted their possible influence in his closing argument, saying "the people sitting in the gallery are not evidence." 

President Biden, who did not attend the trial, issued a statement saying he will "accept the outcome of this case and will continue to respect the judicial process as Hunter considers an appeal." But he also noted that "I am also a dad," and added "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." 

Jury Finds Hunter Biden Guilty Of Three Felony Gun Charges
First lady Jill Biden, Hunter Biden, son of U.S. President Joe Biden, joined by his wife Melissa Cohen Biden, leave the J. Caleb Boggs Federal Building on June 11, 2024 in Wilmington, Delaware.  Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images

President Biden will head to Wilmington on Tuesday afternoon after delivering prescheduled remarks on gun safety. 

Special counsel David Weiss, who brought charges against Hunter Biden in September after a proposed plea deal fell apart, said after the verdict that "this case was about illegal choices the defendant made in the throws of addiction and his choice to possess that gun." But alluding to a possible jail sentence, Weiss noted that Hunter Biden "should be no more accountable than any other defendant who commits the same conduct."

The court heard difficult testimony about his struggle with drugs from several of the women in Hunter Biden's life. The prosecution called his ex-wife Kathleen Buhle, ex-girlfriend Zoe Kestan and Hallie Biden, the widow of his brother Beau Biden, with whom Hunter Biden was romantically involved during the period of time that he owned the firearm. It was Hallie Biden who discovered the gun in his truck. She testified that Hunter Biden was using drugs in October 2018 when he bought the gun, and prosecutors showed texts that said he was "sleeping on car smoking crack." 

Naomi Biden, called by the defense, testified that her father "seemed great" at the end of October  2018 and she did not spot any drug paraphernalia when she borrowed his truck. But she also said she knew her father "was struggling with addiction," telling the court that "after my Uncle (Beau Biden) died, things got bad." She said Hunter Biden never used illegal drugs in front of her.

Juror #10 reaction

After the verdict, one of the jurors, Juror #10, spoke with CBS News about the verdict, saying that it was 6-6 on Monday night but by the time they returned on Tuesday, 11 of the 12 jurors had decided to convict. 

"I may have been one of the six that said not guilty," the juror said. "It's not that we believed he was not guilty. We needed to go over the evidence. We didn't want to rush judgment. We didn't want to ruin someone's life."  

He said the holdout on Tuesday morning had an issue with some of the language in one of the counts, so they decided to finish reviewing the evidence and go back to her. "She admitted that no one would force her to change her mind," the juror said. 

Juror #10 told CBS News that it was "solemn" when they returned to read the verdict, although he said he did not look at Hunter Biden. "That was where I felt sorry for his family," the juror said.

The juror said the key factors in their decision were that "there was not a wide window of time when Hunter was sober and clean" and "the key evidence in the whole case was the form that Hunter filled out."

"He wanted to buy a handgun," he said. "Why does Hunter Biden need a gun? What was his intent? His intent was to purchase a handgun. He knew what he was doing when they told him he had to fill out that application."

But as for jail time, the juror said "he needs more help than he needs jail. Jail is not gonna help somebody."

What is Hunter Biden accused of? 

He 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 Hallie Biden  found it in the console of his truck and discarded it in a trash can outside a grocery store. 

Afterward, 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 the 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 is Hunter Biden charged with? 

Two of the three counts are related to 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. He's 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 relates 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. 

Hunter Biden's defense

His attorneys argued that prosecutors must prove that he was using drugs the day he bought the gun. The form uses the word "are," defense lawyer 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.

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