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Hunter Biden jury sees proof of habit, hears ‘no person is above the legislation’


WILMINGTON: Prosecutors in the historic criminal trial of President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden told jurors on Tuesday that overwhelming evidence shows that the younger Biden lied to hide his drug addiction so he could illegally buy a gun, while the defense said he had no intent to deceive.

Jurors in federal court in Delaware heard opening statements by prosecution and defense lawyers in the first trial of a child of a sitting US president before witness testimony began.

The prosecution showed jurors text messages in which Hunter Biden arranged drug deals and discussed smoking crack cocaine, including within days of his October 2018 purchase of a Colt Cobra revolver. They also played excerpts from the audiobook version of his autobiography in which he described his “bloodhound” instinct for finding crack around the time of his gun purchase.

Prosecutor Derek Hines said during his opening statement that “the evidence is overwhelming” and written in the defendant’s own words.

“Addiction is not a crime. Lying is,” Hines said.

Hunter Biden, 54, has pleaded not guilty to three felony charges accusing him of failing to disclose his use of illegal drugs when he bought the gun and of illegally possessing the weapon for 11 days.

The trial, presided over by US District Judge Maryellen Noreika, began in the aftermath of Donald Trump last week becoming the first former US president to be convicted of a crime. Trump is the Republican candidate challenging Joe Biden, a Democrat, in the Nov. 5 US election. Neither the prosecution nor the defense directly addressed that issue.

Defense attorney Abbe Lowell told jurors in his opening statement that no one disputes that Hunter Biden was a drug addict before and after the gun purchase. But Lowell told jurors that the gun purchase form asked Hunter Biden only if he was currently an addict, not whether he had used in the past, adding that his client had no “intent to deceive.”

The trial in the Bidens’ hometown of Wilmington is playing out as Trump and his congressional allies continue to accuse the Justice Department of a politicized prosecution of the former president.

US Special Counsel David Weiss, a Trump appointee, brought the case against Hunter Biden and was present in the courtroom on Tuesday. Weiss has separately filed federal tax charges against Hunter Biden in California.

The trial is offering a tour of Hunter Biden’s years-long struggles with drug and alcohol addiction. Hunter Biden told Noreika at a hearing last year that he has been sober since the middle of 2019.

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

‘FINDING CRACK ANYTIME’

FBI agent Erika Jensen was called as the first prosecution witness to testify about Hunter Biden’s texts, bank records and writings about his drug use.

That included a text the day after Hunter Biden bought the gun in which he said he was “waiting for a dealer named Mookie” and another the next day in which he said he had been sleeping on top of a car and smoking crack.

Hines asked Jensen about Hunter Biden’s 2021 autobiography, “Beautiful Things,” in which he documented his addiction. Hines played about 30 minutes of Biden’s monotone voice narrating the audiobook, including passages in which he detailed his constant hunt for drugs and what he called his “superpower — finding crack anytime, anywhere.”

Jensen also described Hunter Biden’s bank records that showed that he made almost daily cash withdrawals, totaling $151,000, from September to November 2018, covering the period of the gun purchase.

Lowell said Hunter Biden did not have a credit card at the time and was spending thousands of dollars on drug recovery.

Tuesday’s proceedings ended soon after Lowell began the cross examination of Jensen, which is set to continue on Wednesday.

Hines said prosecutors will call as a witness Hunter Biden’s former wife, Kathleen Buhle, who accused him in their 2017 divorce proceedings of squandering money on drugs, alcohol and prostitutes. Hallie Biden, widow of Beau Biden, Hunter’s brother who died of cancer in 2015, is also expected to testify.

Trump is due to be sentenced on July 11 after being convicted by a jury in state court in New York last Thursday of 34 felony counts of falsifying documents to cover up hush money paid to a porn star to avoid a sex scandal shortly before the 2016 US election.

He has pleaded not guilty in three other pending criminal cases, two related to his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Biden and one accusing him of unlawfully keeping classified national security documents after leaving office in 2021.

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