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Hunter Biden's gun case goes to the jury

Jury begins deliberation in Hunter Biden gun case
Jury begins deliberation in Hunter Biden gun case 02:33

Jurors began deliberations late Monday afternoon in the federal gun trial of Hunter Biden, who is charged with owning and possessing a firearm while he was a drug addict. They deliberated for about an hour before they were released for the day.

His lawyers opted not to call him to the stand, though last Friday they had raised the possibility that he would testify.

Prosecutors said in their closing argument Monday that the central issue is whether Hunter Biden was an unlawful user or addicted to a controlled substance when he purchased the firearm. They went over witness testimony, text messages, photographs, bank withdrawals and Hunter Biden's memoir. Prosecutors acknowledged the evidence was very "personal," ugly" and "overwhelming" but said it was "absolutely necessary" to prove his addiction. 

Two of the three charges Hunter Biden faces are related to accusations that he made 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. 

He's also been charged with owning the gun unlawfully, possessing the weapon for 11 days before Hallie Biden, with whom he was romantically involved, found and discarded it. Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty to the charges. 

Defense lawyer Abbe Lowell said in his closing that the prosecution's case was built on "conjecture and suspicion," and prosecutors had unfairly used Hunter Biden's own words in his texts and his memoir out of context. 

Prosecutors said Hunter Biden's rehabilitation treatments were themselves evidence that he knew he was an addict and satisfied their burden to prove that he knowingly made false statements about his drug use for the purchase. 

But Lowell countered that Hunter Biden's admission that he was an addict was an expression of "what had he had been" and not who he was at the time, and they were a "cry for help" from someone looking back.  

Lowell argued there were gaps in the evidence of Hunter Biden's use of drugs during the 11-day period that he owned the firearm, arguing that key witnesses,  like Hunter Biden's ex-girlfriend Zoe Kestan, did not have any proof of his drug use. Lowell said prosecutors had not proved that the large cash withdrawals were used for drug transactions. 

Hunter Biden Gun Trial Continues In Delaware
Hunter Biden, son of U.S. President Joe Biden, joined by his wife Melissa Cohen Biden, arrive to the J. Caleb Boggs Federal Building on June 10, 2024 in Wilmington, Delaware.  Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images

Referencing the gun form's structure and language that alternated questions beginning with "have you ever" and "are you," Lowell argued that Hunter Biden had not knowingly made a false statement about his drug use with the intent to deceive and reiterated one of his primary arguments over the course of the trial, that Hunter Biden did not consider himself an addict at the time he bought the gun. 

Lowell also pointed to testimony from Gordon Cleveland, the gun shop employee who sold Hunter Biden the weapon and testified that he did not appear to be under the influence at the time of purchase. 

While prosecutor Leo Wise did not directly reference the first family members who have been attending, he reminded the jury "the people sitting in the gallery are not evidence" and "their presence in the courtroom has no bearing on the case." While President Biden has not been in the courtroom, first lady Jill Biden has been there nearly every day. The Bidens' daughter Ashley Biden, Mr. Biden's siblings Valerie and Jimmy Biden and Hunter Biden's wife Melissa Cohen Biden all sat in the front row with the first lady on Monday.

Witness testimony 

The prosecution wrapped its case Friday against President Biden's son after testimony from Hunter Biden's ex-wife Kathleen Buhle, his ex-girlfriend Zoe Kestan and Hallie Biden, the widow of his brother Beau Biden. The man who allegedly sold Hunter Biden the gun, Gordon Cleveland, also testified. 

Hallie Biden, considered to be the prosecution's star witness, testified last week that she "panicked" when she found the weapon, and she "just wanted to get rid" of the gun and bullets. 

"I didn't want him to hurt himself or the kids to find it and hurt themselves," she said. Hallie Biden testified that Hunter Biden had introduced her to crack cocaine after her husband's death. "It was a terrible experience that I went through, and I'm embarrassed and ashamed, and I regret that period of my life," she said. 

At the heart of the prosecution's case is whether Hunter Biden knowingly lied about using drugs. Prosecutor Derek Hines in his opening statement noted that "addiction may not be a choice, but lying and buying a gun is a choice." 

Cleveland testified that Hunter Biden did not seem confused by the form when he sold him the firearm in Oct. 2018. 

Hunter Biden Gun Trial Continues In Delaware
Hallie Biden departs from the J. Caleb Boggs Federal Building after testifying in the trial of Hunter Biden on June 06, 2024, in Wilmington, Delaware. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Hallie Biden 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 testified that her father "seemed great" at the end of Oct. 2018 and she did not spot any drug paraphernalia when she borrowed his truck. However, she also said she knew her father "was struggling with addiction," telling the court that "after my Uncle (Beau Biden) died, things got bad." But she maintained that her father never used illegal drugs in front of her. She also acknowledged she had never observed what her father looked like when he was using drugs. 

Jury deliberations resume Tuesday.

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