Hunter Biden jury sworn in, will hear evidence of addiction and a gun buy

Hunter Biden jury sworn in, will hear evidence of addiction and a gun buy

By Tom Hals

WILMINGTON, Delaware (Reuters) -A jury was sworn in on Monday for the trial of Hunter Biden on gun charges, a historic criminal prosecution of a sitting president's son with the potential to influence the 2024 presidential election.

Hunter Biden, 54, went on trial at the federal courthouse in Wilmington, Delaware, four days after Republican Donald Trump, the Democratic president's rival for the Nov. 5 U.S. election, became the first former president found guilty of a crime.

President Joe Biden's son is accused of failing to disclose his use of illegal drugs when he bought a Colt Cobra .38-caliber revolver and of illegally possessing the weapon for 11 days in October 2018.

He has pleaded not guilty to the three felony charges.

The case, brought by U.S. Special Counsel David Weiss, a Trump appointee, is one of Hunter Biden's two criminal cases. He also faces federal tax charges in California.

U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika ended the day by swearing in the 12 jurors and four alternates. "Your job is to find the facts," she told them and instructed them not to discuss the case with anyone, even among themselves.

The case is expected to center on Hunter Biden's years of crack cocaine use and addiction, which he has discussed publicly and which was a prominent part of his 2021 autobiography, "Beautiful Things." He told Noreika at a hearing last year that he has been sober since the middle of 2019.

Republicans have seized on Hunter Biden's troubles to try to shift attention away from Trump's own legal woes. Trump is due to be sentenced on July 11. He has pleaded not guilty in three other pending criminal cases.

Jill Biden, Hunter Biden's wife Melissa Cohen Biden and his half-sister Ashley Biden were in attendance. Wilmington is the Bidens' hometown.

"Jill and I love our son and we are so proud of the man he is today," Joe Biden said in a statement, adding that a lot of families have loved ones who have overcome addiction.

Congressional Republicans spent years in vain trying to find evidence of a corrupt link between Hunter Biden's foreign business dealings, including work for Ukrainian energy company Burisma, and his father's political power.


The jurors included several who disclosed personal experience with drug addiction. One impaneled juror had a friend who overdosed and another, selected as an alternate, whose uncle's drug use led to jail time.

"I feel like it’s an everyday part of the world," said the alternate juror of substance abuse.

Few jurors expressed strong political views but a handful said they were acquainted with members of the extended Biden family.

One potential juror said she and her husband were acquainted with Hunter Biden. "Wilmington is a small place," the potential juror told the judge before being dismissed.

All 12 jurors must agree he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to convict.

If convicted on all charges in the Delaware case, Hunter Biden faces up to 25 years in prison, though defendants generally receive shorter sentences, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

Hunter Biden spent the weekend with his father in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, with the pair biking and attending church together on Saturday.


Prosecutors will seek to prove that Hunter Biden knew he was lying when he ticked the box for "no" next to a question on a federal gun purchase form asking if he was an unlawful user of a controlled substance.

Prosecution lawyers disclosed in court filings that they may use details gleaned from Hunter Biden's phone and iCloud account, including photos of him smoking crack and messages with drug dealers. They said they may call as a witness his former wife Kathleen Buhle, who accused Hunter Biden in their 2017 divorce proceedings of squandering money on drugs, alcohol and prostitutes.

Hunter Biden's lawyers have indicated they may try to show he had completed a drug rehabilitation program before purchasing the gun and may have considered his answer on the gun purchase form to be truthful.

A plea agreement that would have resolved the gun and tax charges without prison time collapsed last year after Noreika questioned the extent of the immunity it extended to Hunter Biden. His lawyers blamed Republican pressure for the failure of the plea agreement.

Noreika, a Trump appointee to the bench, entered multiple orders over the weekend that were requested by prosecutors and that appeared to undercut the defendant's legal strategy.

The judge said the defense could not introduce expert testimony that people suffering from substance abuse disorders might not consider themselves an addict.

That testimony could have helped Biden show that he did not know he was lying on the background check form. The government is required to prove that Biden knowingly lied.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; additional reporting by Stephanie Kelly in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware; editing by Amy Stevens, Noeleen Walder, Nick Zieminski and Howard Goller)