Opening statements set to begin in Hunter Biden gun trial following jury selection yesterday

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WILMINGTON, Del. — A federal prosecutor told jurors Tuesday in his opening statement in the Hunter Biden trial that at the end of the case he should be found guilty of all charges because “No one is above the law.”

“It doesn’t matter who you are, or what your name is,” prosecutor Derek Hines said, as he laid out special counsel David Weiss‘ case against President Joe Biden’s son.

Defendants are tried “because of the choices they made,” Hines said. Hunter Biden, he added, “chose to illegally own a firearm. His ownership of that firearm was illegal because he was a user of crack, and a drug addict. The law prohibits users and drug addicts from owning a gun. That law makes no distinction between Hunter Biden and anybody else.”

Hunter Biden also “chose to lie” about his drug use when he bought the weapon, Hines said.

Hunter Biden is charged with three counts tied to possession of a gun while using narcotics. Two of the counts accuse him of having completed a form indicating he was not using illegal drugs when he bought a Colt Cobra revolver on Oct. 12, 2018. The third count alleges he possessed a firearm while using a narcotic. “No one is allowed to lie on a federal form like that. Not even Hunter Biden,” Hines said.

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Hunter Biden arrives at court
Hunter Biden at federal court Monday in Wilmington, Del. Matt Slocum / AP

The indictment said Biden certified on a federally mandated form “that he was not an unlawful user of, and addicted to, any stimulant, narcotic drug, and any other controlled substance, when in fact, as he knew, that statement was false and fictitious.”

Hines told jurors that Hunter Biden described his behavior at the time as smoking “every 15 minutes, seven days a week.” He boasted in his book of having a “superpower” for finding crack anywhere, Hines said. 

“Addiction may not be a choice, but lying and possessing a gun is a choice,” Hines said.

Hunter Biden, 54, has pleaded not guilty.

His attorney Abbe Lowell acknowledged his opening statement that his client “bought a small handgun,” but said it “was never loaded” and he “never used it.”

He said prosecutors have to prove that Hunter Biden “knowingly violated the law” when he purchased the gun, and suggested they would not be able to do so.

He said his client did not violate the law “knowingly, and with an intent to deceive.”

Lowell told the jury that there is no disagreement that Biden had abused alcohol since he was a teenager, and drugs as an adult, and cited some of his family history, including the death of his mother and sister in a 1972 car crash that also injured him and his brother, Beau.

He did dispute that his client was using crack around the time of the gun purchase. “There may be high-functioning alcoholics, but there’s no such thing as a high-functioning crack addict,” he said. Lowell told the jurors there is reasonable doubt about his client’s guilt, and at the end of the trial “the only verdict that will be appropriate are three not guilty’s.”

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The jury of 12 — six men and six women — and four alternates were selected from a pool of over 60 potential jurors Monday. Proceedings were delayed for about an hour on Tuesday morning when one of the jurors dropped out citing financial hardship. She was replaced by one of the alternates.

In court Monday and Tuesday to support Hunter Biden was his stepmother, first lady Jill Biden. On both days she sat next to Hunter Biden’s wife, Melissa Cohen-Biden, in the audience.

Also in the audience was Garrett Ziegler, a former Trump White House aide who Hunter Biden is suing for allegedly violating state and federal data laws in connection with the online publication of data he said was scraped from the first son’s notorious laptop. The suit says Ziegler and his non-profit “have, to at least some extent, accessed, tampered with, manipulated, altered, copied and damaged Plaintiff’s data.”

Cohen-Biden confronted Ziegler during a morning break and told him, “You have no right to be here, you Nazi piece of s—,” She walked away before he could respond.

Ziegler told NBC News “for the record I’m not a Nazi. I’m a believer in the U.S. Constitution.” He said it was “prudent” for him to be in court, and called the lawsuit against him “completely frivolous.”

A source familiar with the situation said to expect “a steady stream of family and friends” of Biden to attend throughout the trial. 

At least 15 people in the jury pool said they have family members, significant others or close friends with substance abuse issues, including four who were ultimately selected. A source close to the president and the first lady said that they appreciated the many people who have been affected by addiction or substance abuse and have long felt that people understand the complexity of that dynamic and that they saw it on display in court. 

Prosecutors’ first witness was FBI agent Erika Jensen. Jensen was introducing some of the prosecutors’ evidence, including text messages they say show Biden was using crack in the months before and after the gun purchase. The messages came from Biden’s phone and the computer that former President Donald Trump called the “laptop from hell” after his attorney Rudy Giuliani got a hold of the hard drive in the final weeks of the 2020 presidential election. The physical laptop was entered into evidence Tuesday and shown to the jury.

Cohen-Biden shook her head as Hines held up the computer for jurors to see.

Among the messages highlighted by prosecutors was one from the day after the purchase, in which Hunter Biden messaged someone that he was “waiting for a dealer.” They also introduced one from Oct. 14, 2018, in which he is alleged to have written, “I was sleeping on a car smoking crack.”

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Jensen also testified that bank records show Hunter Biden was withdrawing large sums of cash on a daily basis in the same time period. His withdrawals for September, October and November 2018 totaled $151,640, the agent said. On the day of the gun purchase, he withdrew $5,000, Jensen said. She said he spent $881 in cash at the gun store, showing jurors the receipt as well as the form he’s accused of lying on.

Jensen also introduced passages from the audiobook version of Hunter Biden’s 2021 memoir “Beautiful Things,” where he discusses his drug use in detail. The audiobook was read by Hunter Biden himself, enabling jurors to hear his descriptions in his own voice. In one passage played for the jury, he said, “walking into a high crime neighborhood and buying crack was like playing Russian roulette,” sometimes with five bullets in the chamber.

In another, he said there is “no honor among us crackheads.”

Hines also played a video from Hunter Biden’s phone from December of 2018, showing him shirtless and holding what Jensen described as a crack pipe.

Lowell was only able to cross-examine Jensen for a short period of time before court ended for the day. He got her to acknowledge that many of the text messages she read were from January of 2019 – months after the gun sale. His questioning of the agent will resume Wednesday morning.

Hines said prosecutors plan to call around eight witnesses in total. Among them are three women Hunter Biden had romantic relationships with — Hallie Olivere Biden, the widow of his late brother, Beau; a California woman named Zoe Kestan; and Hunter Biden’s ex-wife, Kathleen Buhle.

The widow “will testify about her own crack use” with Hunter Biden, Hines said. Both she and Kestan will be testifying under immunity agreements, he said. Buhle did not use drugs herself and has no immunity agreement, Hines said.

Lowell has said he wants to call the owner of the gun shop as a witness and two to three expert witnesses. Weiss’ office has challenged some of the experts’ testimony.

Gary Grumbach, Daniel Barnes, Owen Hayes and Sarah Fitzpatrick reported from Wilmington, Del., and Dareh Gregorian from New York.

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