Hunter Biden, son of Joe Biden, convicted of lying about drug use to buy gun

Verdict makes defendant first child of a US president to be found guilty of a crime

Hunter Biden was on Tuesday convicted by a Delaware jury on federal gun charges, making him the first child of a US president to be tried and found guilty of a crime, in a case that has been a distraction for the re-election campaign of his father, Joe Biden.

The conviction on three felony counts came after a week-long trial that laid bare the agony and dysfunction in the Biden family after the president’s oldest son and political heir, Beau, died in 2015, and how that tragedy set in motion an unlikely series of events involving a handgun.

It comes less than five months before the US election and just under two weeks after his father’s rival for the White House, Donald Trump, was convicted in a New York criminal case.

Jurors began their deliberations on Monday afternoon and delivered the verdict shortly after they returned to the courthouse on Tuesday morning.


“I am more grateful today for the love and support I experienced this last week from [wife] Melissa, my family, my friends and my community than I am disappointed by the outcome,” Hunter Biden said in a statement after the verdict.

He could face up to 25 years in prison and a fine of up to $750,000 (€700,000), although sentences for federal crimes tend to be below maximum sanctions. The court has yet to set a sentencing date.

“I am the president, but I am also a dad. Jill and I love our son, and we are so proud of the man he is today,” said Joe Biden in a statement after the verdict on Tuesday. “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.”

The president said he would “accept the outcome of this case and will continue to respect the judicial process as Hunter considers an appeal”. The White House also announced after the verdict that Mr Biden had changed schedule for the day and would head to Wilmington, Delaware, where the trial took place, in the afternoon.

David Weiss, the special counsel appointed by US attorney general Merrick Garland to oversee the Hunter Biden proceedings, said the outcome demonstrated that “no one in this country is above the law”.

The special counsel also thanked Mr Garland for ensuring his office had the “independence to appropriately pursue our investigations and prosecutions”.

Abbe Lowell, Hunter Biden’s lawyer, said in a statement that “we are naturally disappointed by today’s verdict” and would pursue “legal challenges” to it.

Mr Trump’s campaign said in a statement that the “trial has been nothing more than a distraction from the real crimes of the Biden Crime Family”.

The trial in Wilmington featured testimony about Biden’s romantic relationship with his widowed sister-in-law, Hallie, after Beau’s death, and their struggles with crack cocaine.

At issue was whether Biden lied about his drug use when buying a .38-calibre Colt Cobra revolver on October 12th, 2018 from a Wilmington dealer while waiting for his iPhone to be serviced at a nearby store. On a federal background check, Biden selected “no” when asked whether he used or was addicted to controlled substances.

Prosecutors alleged that was a lie, and showed evidence that included text messages to dealers named “Mookie” and “Q”, testimony from ex-girlfriends and photographs of Biden weighing drugs. In one text message to Hallie, two days after the gun purchase, Biden said he was “sitting on a car smoking crack”.

They also quoted extensively from Biden’s 2021 memoir, Beautiful Things, in which he chronicled his spiral into crack addiction after his brother Beau’s death.

“If this trial did not establish that Hunter Biden is a crack addict, then no one is a crack addict or drug user,” Derek Hines, a prosecutor, told jurors during closing arguments on Monday as he urged them to convict the president’s son.

The – abiding

Mr Lowell did not dispute that his client had abused drugs for periods before and after the gun purchase. But he argued that the government had no evidence that Biden was using drugs at the time in question or that he had knowingly lied on the background check.

In a speech that ran just under 90 minutes, Mr Lowell repeatedly dismissed the case as “conjecture and suspicion” and “a magician’s trick”.

As both sides made their final arguments, a collection of Biden family members looked on, including first lady Jill Biden, Hunter’s sister Ashley, and his aunt, Valerie.

The case has been a political headache for the White House, disclosing some of the family’s most anguished and unsavoury episodes as the president tries to invigorate a sluggish election campaign. There may be more to come, with his son facing a second federal criminal trial on tax charges in California in September.

Republicans have sought to use the case as a distraction from the legal travails of Mr Trump, who recently became the first former president to be convicted of a crime for “hush money” payments to a former porn actor.

Joe Biden has issued public statements in support of Hunter, and family and friends have rallied around him. But he has said he would not pardon his son.

One of the most emotional moments in the trial was Hallie Biden’s testimony, recounting her turbulent romantic relationship with Biden and their fitful efforts to become sober. She found the gun in his pick-up truck 12 days after he bought it and, in a panic, tossed it in the rubbish bin at a local grocery store. Police eventually recovered it from a man who picked through the rubbish.

If not for that act, Mr Lowell suggested, Biden might never have been charged. “On October 23rd, Hallie did something incredibly stupid,” he said, but allowed that “she may have done it for love”. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2024