World

Hunter Biden found guilty of lying about drug use to illegally buy gun

Hunter Biden, the son of U.S. President Joe Biden, was found guilty Tuesday of lying about his drug use to illegally buy a gun, making him the first child of a sitting American president to be convicted of a crime.

Biden, 54, becomes 1st child of sitting U.S. president to be convicted of a crime

Hunter Biden found guilty in gun crime trial

11 days ago
Duration 6:44
Hunter Biden, son of U.S. President Joe Biden, has been found guilty on three counts, including breaking a law barring illegal drug users from owning firearms. It was the first time a child of a sitting U.S. president went on trial for a crime.

U.S. President Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden was convicted by a jury on Tuesday of lying about his drug use to illegally 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, Del. — hometown of the Bidens — found the defendant guilty on all three counts against him.

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

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

The trial took place against the background of a Nov. 5 presidential 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.

WATCH | What's next after Hunter Biden convicted:

What's next after Hunter Biden convicted on 3 felony charges in gun case

11 days ago
Duration 1:50
Amy Lee Copeland, a defence lawyer who previously worked as a U.S. federal prosecutor, breaks down what will happen next after Hunter Biden was found guilty on three felony charges related to a gun purchase.

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 the timeline is usually within 120 days. That would place it no later than a month before the Nov. 5 U.S. presidential election.

President 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.

Sentencing guidelines for the gun charges are 15 to 21 months — and a maximum sentence would be up to 25 years in prison — 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.

'No politics came into play'

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."

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

WATCH | During speech, Trump tries to turn conviction into campaign opportunity: 

Trump tries to turn conviction into campaign opportunity

22 days ago
Duration 2:35
Former U.S. president Donald Trump stood before the media on Friday, a day after his historic conviction for falsifying business records in New York. In a 30-minute speech, he denied any wrongdoing, attacked the conviction and blamed Joe Biden, all in a seeming hope to raise money for his election campaign.

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.

'Dangerous' conduct

The Delaware trial included prosecution testimony by Hunter Biden's ex-wife, former girlfriend and sister-in-law, who gave firsthand accounts of his spiralling addiction in the weeks before and after he bought the gun in October 2018.

Prosecutors also showed text messages, photos and bank records that they said showed Hunter 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.

Hunter 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.

Hunter Biden, centre, walks with his mother on the left and his wife on the right.
Hunter Biden, centre, is accompanied by his mother, Jill Biden, left, and his wife, Melissa Cohen Biden, right, as they leave federal court in Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday, after hearing the verdict of his federal gun trial. (Matt Rourke/The Associated Press)

The defence 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.

LISTEN | Hunter Biden discusses addiction and family tragedy in 2021 interview:
Matt Galloway talks to Hunter Biden about his new book, Beautiful Things, about his experience of tragedy and trauma from a young age, the addiction issues that followed — and how it all played into his father's fight to become president of the United States.

"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 offences in California, alleging he failed to pay $1.4 million US 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.