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U.S. President Joe Biden’s son Hunter convicted of lying about drug use to buy gun

President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden was convicted by a jury on Tuesday of lying about his illegal drug use to buy a gun, making him the first child of a sitting U.S. president to be convicted of a crime.

A 12-member jury in Wilmington, Delaware – the Bidens’ hometown – found the defendant guilty on all three counts against him.

Hunter Biden, 54, lightly nodded his head after the verdict was read but otherwise showed little reaction. He then patted his lawyer Abbe Lowell on the back and hugged another member of his legal team.

First lady Jill Biden and Hunter’s wife Melissa held his hands as they left the courtroom.

Lowell said in a statement they would “vigorously pursue all the legal challenges available to Hunter.” Biden still faces a separate tax case in California.

Hunter Biden, seen at a Wilmington food hall after the verdict, referred Reuters reporters to his statement when asked for further comment but said, “all is good.”

“How could it not be?” he added, motioning to a child on his lap he did not identify.

The trial took place against the background of a Nov. 5 election pitting Democrat Joe Biden against his Republican predecessor Donald Trump, who was himself found guilty at a landmark New York state trial last month.

At trial, prosecutors offered an intimate view of Hunter Biden’s years of struggle with alcohol and crack cocaine abuse, which they said legally precluded him from buying a gun.

After about three hours of deliberation, the jurors found Hunter Biden falsely claimed to be free of illegal drugs when he filled out a government screening document for a Colt Cobra revolver in 2018 and then illegally possessed the weapon.

In a statement Hunter Biden said he was more grateful for the love and support he had received than he was disappointed by the guilty verdict. He said he was “blessed” to experience the gift of recovery “one day at a time.”

U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika set no date for sentencing, but added it would usually be within 120 days. That would place it no later than about a month before the Nov. 5 U.S. presidential election.

Joe Biden issued a statement saying he accepted the outcome of the case and would respect the judicial process as his son considers an appeal.

Hours after the verdict, Hunter and his wife and son met the president’s helicopter when it landed at a Delaware Air National Guard Base in New Castle. The president embraced his son and hugged and kissed his daughter-in-law and grandchild.

Sentencing guidelines for the gun charges are 15 to 21 months, but legal experts say defendants in similar cases often get shorter sentences and are less likely to be incarcerated if they abide by the terms of their pretrial release.

In an audio interview with CNN, a juror identified only as No. 10, said: “In deliberating, we were not thinking of the sentencing and I really don’t think that Hunter belongs in jail.”

The juror said: “No politics came into play and politics was not even spoken about. The first family was not even spoken about. It was all about Hunter.”

FOCUS ON TIGHT WHITE HOUSE RACE

The trial followed the May 30 criminal conviction of Donald Trump, the first U.S. president to be found guilty of a felony.

Trump, convicted on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to cover up a sex scandal, has claimed without evidence that the multiple criminal prosecutions he faces have been orchestrated by Joe Biden in a bid to block his reelection.

On Tuesday, Trump’s campaign showed no signs of changing its tack.

“This trial has been nothing more than a distraction from the real crimes of the Biden Crime Family,” Trump campaign spokesperson Karoline Leavitt said in a statement.

Congressional Democrats had pointed to the Hunter Biden trial, as well as ongoing federal prosecutions of two Democratic members of Congress, as evidence that President Biden was not using the legal system for partisan ends.

The president himself said last week he would not pardon his son if convicted.

The Delaware trial included prosecution testimony by Hunter Biden’s ex-wife, former girlfriend and sister-in-law, who gave firsthand accounts of his spiraling addiction in the weeks before and after he bought the gun.

Prosecutors also showed text messages, photos and bank records that they said showed Biden was deep in the throes of addiction when he bought the gun and knowingly broke the law by answering “no” to being a drug user on a government screening form.

Biden’s lawyers sought to show he was not using drugs when he bought the gun and did not intend to deceive because he didn’t consider himself a drug user when he filled out the form.

The defense called Hunter Biden’s daughter, Naomi Biden, who testified that her father seemed to be doing well when she saw him shortly before and after he bought the gun.

The Hunter Biden case was brought by U.S. Department of Justice Special Counsel David Weiss, a Trump appointee.

At a press conference afterwards, Weiss said the case was not just about addiction but also about the illegal choices Hunter Biden made while in the throes of addiction.

“His choice to lie on a government form when he bought a gun, and the choice to then possess that gun. It was these choices, and the combination of guns and drugs, that made his conduct dangerous,” Weiss said.

Weiss has also charged Hunter Biden with three felony and six misdemeanor tax offenses in California, alleging he failed to pay $1.4 million in taxes between 2016 and 2019 while spending millions on drugs, escorts, exotic cars and other high-ticket items.

Hunter Biden has pleaded not guilty to those charges. A trial is scheduled for Sept. 5 in Los Angeles.

(Reuters)

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Last Updated: 21st Jul 2024