Updated Jun 11, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Hunter Biden found guilty in federal gun case

Hunter Biden and First Lady Jill Biden leave the federal courthouse after his conviction on gun charges.

First lady Jill Biden, Hunter Biden, and his wife Melissa Cohen Biden leave the J. Caleb Boggs Federal Building on June 11. Photo: by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

WILMINGTON, Del.Hunter Biden was found guilty on all charges Tuesday in his federal gun trial that began earlier in June, making him the first child of a sitting president to be convicted of a crime.

Why it matters: The president's son now faces sentencing, and possibly prison, as his father seeks reelection.

The latest: Hunter Biden lawyer Abbe Lowell in a statement after the verdict said, "We are naturally disappointed by today's verdict."

  • "We respect the jury process, and as we have done throughout this case, we will continue to vigorously pursue all the legal challenges available to Hunter," Lowell said.
  • Hunter said that he is "more grateful today for the love and support" he has experienced from his family and friends than he is "disappointed by the outcome."

Catch up quick: Hunter Biden faces up to 25 years in prison with the three charges, although as a first-time offender it's unlikely he will receive the maximum sentence. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

  • The federal gun trial is one of two that Hunter Biden is set to face before the November election and has taken a heavy emotional toll on the close-knit Biden family.
  • Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty to charges against him.
  • Jury deliberation in the trial lasted for about three hours.

Inside the room: The verdict came in so quickly that many members of the Biden family, including the first lady, were not present when it was announced.

  • Hunter was almost motionless when the verdict was announced, staring straight ahead until he gave a few slight nods at the end.
  • Afterward, he hugged his lawyer and some of the others on his team, kissed his wife, and left quickly.

State of play: Hunter Biden was accused of illegally purchasing and possessing a firearm in October 2018 while using a narcotic.

  • Prosecutors argued that he was knowingly using drugs at the time that he purchased his gun but said otherwise on the federal form.
  • Defense lawyers countered that Hunter had recently gone to rehab in California several weeks before he bought the gun and there was reasonable doubt that he had been using crack cocaine around the time he purchased it.

The big picture: The extraordinary trial — the first for a sitting president's son — featured intimate details about the Biden family including testimony from Hunter's former romantic partners.

  • The trial also touched on issues of social class, sex, and addiction.
  • With many members of the Biden clan in the audience, the prosecution portrayed Hunter as a rich, dishonest crack addict, while the defense argued he was a well-intentioned, family-oriented man struggling with a disease.

Zoom in: Beyond the basic facts surrounding the gun purchase, many of the prosecution's witnesses offered testimony that appeared designed to make the jury question Hunter's character.

  • Beau Biden's widow, Hallie Biden, who had a romantic relationship with Hunter, testified that her brother-in-law introduced her to crack cocaine and would often lie about where he was and what he was doing.
  • Kathleen Buhle, Hunter's ex-wife, testified that she regularly cleaned out his car after they divorced in 2017 because her daughters would borrow it and she didn't want them driving in a vehicle that had drugs.

The prosecution also noted to the largely working-class jury that Hunter had millions of dollars in income in this period.

  • During the trial and in their closing, prosecutors emphasized that he had withdrawn $151,000 in cash alone in the three months of 2018 surrounding his purchase of a gun.
  • Prosecutors also had Zoe Kestan — a former dancer at a gentleman's club who Hunter had dated when she was 24 — testify that Hunter was loose with money, including giving her $800 to buy clothes as gifts for his daughters who she knew were around her age.

Hunter's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, noted to the jury that both Hallie and Kestan had been promised immunity.

  • He questioned some of the details of Hallie's testimony given that she had also been a user of drugs — though she testified she had been sober for two months when she found the gun.

In the most dramatic moment of the trial, Lowell also called Hunter's eldest daughter Naomi to the stand to vouch that her dad had been in a period of sobriety.

  • She testified that her dad appeared the "clearest" she had seen him in years when she saw him in rehab in Los Angeles in August of 2018.
  • But text messages between the two of them in October of 2018 — days after the alleged gun purchase — showed Hunter as erratic, which prompted Naomi to text, "I can't take this ... I just miss you so much. I just want to hang out with you."
  • Hunter ultimately did not testify in his own defense.

Reality check: Hunter Biden, who previously told the court he got sober in June of 2019, has been open about his drug use, particularly in the period after his brother Beau died.

  • Prosecutors used excerpts from his 2021 memoir "Beautiful Things," where he acknowledged his addiction to crack cocaine, to corroborate their argument.
  • Lowell noted that the book is "not a diary" and does not say he was smoking crack cocaine at the time he bought the gun anyway.

The charges were only brought by special counsel David Weiss after a plea deal — which included no jail time — fell apart in the courtroom last July.

Zoom out: Hunter Biden's trial began on June 3.

  • President Biden said in a statement at the start of Hunter Biden's trial that he had "boundless love for [his] son, confidence in him, and respect for his strength."
  • Many members of the Biden family including Jill Biden, attended the courthouse during the trial — often wearing designer outfits and carrying expensive handbags at odds with the Biden working-class image and contrasted with the more modest apparel of the jurors.

In his closing argument, prosecutor Leo Wise pointed to the members of the Biden family and told the jury to ignore their presence.

  • "People sitting in the gallery are not evidence," he said.
  • Biden told ABC News in an interview earlier this month that he would not pardon his son if he is convicted.

Go deeper: Daughter's testimony rocks Hunter Biden trial

Editor's note: This story was updated with details from inside the courtroom and additional reporting.

Go deeper