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Jury selected in Hunter Biden gun trial

Hunter Biden, the president's son, goes on trial this week on federal gun charges in Delaware.
Kent Nishimura
Getty Images
Hunter Biden, the president's son, goes on trial this week on federal gun charges in Delaware.

Updated June 03, 2024 at 19:23 PM ET

A jury was seated in the trial of President Biden's son, Hunter Biden, on federal gun charges Monday, as family members — including First Lady Jill Biden — sat in the courtroom to show their support.

The trial, which opened Monday in federal court in Delaware, is the first of two cases brought by Justice Department special counsel David Weiss against the president’s son. The second prosecution is on tax charges and is scheduled to go to trial in September in California.

With the jury now set, opening statements are expected to begin Tuesday followed by the government's first witnesses.

Hunter Biden faces three counts in the gun case: two false statements for allegedly lying about his drug use when purchasing a firearm, and one for the unlawful possession of a gun by a drug user or addict. He has pleaded not guilty.

The trial is the latest courtroom drama of this election year to hold potential political implications for the 2024 presidential race.

Although Hunter Biden is not running for public office, Republicans have long sought to use his legal troubles and foreign business dealings to try to damage his father politically. The trial provides a fresh opportunity to do so.

It comes just days after his father’s opponent in the 2024 election, former President Donald Trump, was found guilty by a New York jury of falsifying business records of hush money payments made to an adult film star.

In a statement Monday, President Biden said that while he is the president, he's "also a dad."

"Jill and I love our son, and we are so proud of the man he is today. Hunter’s resilience in the face of adversity and the strength he has brought to his recovery are inspiring to us," he said.

Outside the federal courthouse in downtown Wilmington, police trucks and vans blocked part of the street in front of the building. Inside the courthouse, U.S. Marshals and Secret Service provided security for the high-profile defendant and first family.

Judge Maryellen Noreika moved quickly through the jury selection process. Most if not all of the potential jurors knew of the case, but they said they had did not know much beyond the headlines.

Since the case revolves around Hunter Biden's addiction to crack cocaine and alcohol, the potential jurors were asked whether they had friends or family who had struggled with addiction. Many said that they did, including one who had a friend who died from a heroin overdose, and another who had a brother struggling with an addiction to PCP and heroin.

By late afternoon, the judge and both sides had whittled the jury pool down to 12 jurors — six men and six women — and four alternates who will hear the case.

The gun case is rooted in a difficult period in Hunter Biden’s life when he was reeling after the death of his brother, Beau, and was addicted to crack cocaine and alcohol. The trial is expected to dredge up deeply personal episodes for Hunter Biden and the toll is took on the Biden family.

The case centers on a Colt Cobra revolver Hunter Biden bought at a Wilmington gun store in October 2018. Prosecutors say that Biden lied on a standard background check form when buying the gun by declaring that he was not using or addicted to illegal drugs.

Prosecutors say they intend to call around a dozen witnesses, including Biden’s ex-wife, Kathleen Buhle, and his brother’s widow, Hallie Biden, who was romantically involved with Hunter Biden after Beau’s death.

It was Hallie Biden who found the gun and threw it into a dumpster outside a Wilmington market less than two weeks after Hunter purchased the weapon. The gun was later found by a man collecting recyclables, who alerted law enforcement.

Prosecutors also intend to use excerpts from Hunter Biden’s memoir, in which he talks about his addiction to crack cocaine. Prosecutors also plan to present Biden’s own text messages in which he talks about his drug use.

Less than a year ago, it appeared as though Hunter Biden would avoid trial entirely.

He had a tentative deal with prosecutors under which he would plead guilty to tax charges and enter into a diversion agreement on the gun offenses that would have allowed him to avoid trial.

But that deal fell apart at a hearing in front of U.S. district Judge Maryellen Noreika, who expressed concerns about how the deal was structured. Biden’s legal team and prosecutors were unable to patch it back together.

Weeks later, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Weiss special counsel, and he later brought the two prosecutions against Biden.

Hunter Biden’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, has tried to get the case dismissed on various grounds, but the judge has denied them all.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.