As Hunter Biden goes on trial on gun charges, here’s how his lawyers plan to defend a ‘simple case’

Federal prosecutors seeking to convict Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s son, on three gun-related charges have called their upcoming trial a “simple case” — and the facts presented in the charging documents certainly appear support this assertion.

According to the office of Special Prosecutor David Weiss, in October 2018, Hunter Biden knowingly lied on a federal form about his drug use in order to obtain a Colt Cobra 38SPL revolver – conduct that on its face would constitute a crime federal. He is charged with two counts related to making false statements when purchasing the firearm and a third count of illegally obtaining a firearm while a drug addict .

But Hunter Biden’s legal team thinks this may put an end to Weiss’ careful narrative. At a recent pretrial hearing, a Biden lawyer suggested that the gun form at the heart of the case was “much more complicated than (the) special counsel indicates.”

Jury selection for the trial is expected to begin Monday. And if 12 Delawareans accept the government’s version, the president’s only living son could face prison time.

The task of fighting this outcome falls to Abbe Lowell, a veteran defense attorney who has represented several other high-profile figures, including Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.

How Lowell plans to fight the charges remains somewhat unclear. He told U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika that the contours of his case would depend largely on how prosecutors proceed with the trial.

But in court records and during preliminary hearings, he offered some tea leaves — and hinted that he would try to sow doubt about some of the government’s most crucial evidence and witnesses.

“Taltered” or “annotated”?

Lowell, for example, has latched onto court revelations that there are two copies of the federal firearm form at the heart of the case, called ATF Form 4473. A store employee created the original document when Hunter Biden purchased the gun in 2018. It lists Biden’s passport as identification that he presented to the store employee.

Years later, however, a copy was made. The copy included a handwritten note, “vehicle registration DE,” on a line left blank for “additional government-issued documentation.” Store employees did this in 2021 to correct the requirement that gun buyers present identification that includes an address, which is not the case with passports.

Lowell claims gun store employees “falsified” the document and that raises questions about “who wrote what on the form and when.”

Weiss’ office said gun shop employees simply “annotated” the document. But they took Lowell’s argument seriously enough to re-interview gun store owner Ronald Palimere on May 16.

During the interview, according to filing notes, Palimere said that Hunter Biden’s legal tribulations were becoming “a major scandal and the incident had received intense attention,” and that staffers at the store “were all scared to death.”

Palimere “felt it was necessary to mark up Form 4473 because he thought they were going to get in trouble just for taking on Biden,” according to the notes.

PHOTO: Hunter Biden leaves the Rayburn House office building after a surprise appearance during a markup and meeting of the House Oversight Committee on Capitol Hill, January 10, 2024.

Hunter Biden leaves the Rayburn House office building after a surprise appearance during a House Oversight Committee meeting to vote on whether to hold Biden in contempt of Congress for failing to respond to a request for testimony in the House last month, on Capitol Hill, January 10, 2024.

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters, FILE

If jurors are convinced by Lowell’s view, the argument could undermine the credibility of some key government witnesses — the people who sold Biden the gun — and potentially create reasonable doubt that Hunter Biden is the one who actually checked that box.

At least two gun store employees, including Palimere, are expected to testify at trial.

The definition of “is”

Lowell can also make the argument that Hunter Biden may have been confused by the language on ATF Form 4473. The box he checked “no” asked the buyer: “Are you an illegal or addicted user to » various narcotics.

“The issue here is Mr. Biden’s understanding of the question, which asks in the present tense whether he ‘is’ a user or an addict,” Lowell wrote in court papers.

“The terms ‘user’ or ‘drug addict’ are not defined on the form and have not been explained to him,” he continued. “Someone like Mr. Biden, who had just completed an 11-day rehabilitation program and then lived with a sober companion, could surely believe that he was not a user or addict in the present tense.”

Finally, Lowell raised “a chain of custody issue” with a leather pouch that allegedly contained the revolver purchased by Hunter Biden. In court documents filed earlier this year, prosecutors said the baggie contained cocaine residue.

After purchasing the firearm in 2018, Hunter Biden owned it for less than two weeks before his then-romantic partner, Hallie Biden – who is also the widow of his brother Beau – discovered the gun and pouch and throws them in a dumpster.

The gun was quickly recovered by authorities, but the pouch was not tested for drug residue until five years later, in 2023. Lowell said during the preliminary hearing that he wanted to interview witnesses about what happened to the cover during the five years it was in police custody to see if it had been “tampered with”.

One of the witnesses Lowell plans to call for the defense is a chemical residue expert.

The government’s case

Prosecutors hope those arguments fail and jurors will rely on the voluminous evidence they plan to present to convict Hunter Biden of the three criminal charges he faces.

Prosecutors appear poised to use Hunter Biden’s own words against him — excerpts from his 2021 memoir, “Beautiful Things,” and text messages he exchanged around the time of the gun purchase — to demonstrate that he was in fact a drug user when he filled out ATF Form 4473 and obtained the gun.

In a text message that prosecutors included in court filings, Hunter Biden wrote two days after allegedly purchasing the gun: “I was sleeping on a car smoking crack on 4th Street and Rodney,” making reference to an intersection in Wilmington.

Weiss’ office also plans to show jurors the original ATF Form 4473, in which Biden said “he was not an illegal user of or addicted to any stimulant, narcotic, or other controlled substance.” – although he allegedly knows it. not be true.

Prosecutors said they plan to call up to 12 witnesses, including Hallie Biden and Hunter Biden’s ex-wife, Kathleen Buhle.

Lowell has not yet decided whether Hunter Biden will testify in his own defense.

The trial begins Monday and is expected to last two to three weeks. If convicted, Biden could face a prison sentence of up to 25 years, although legal experts suggest that as a first-time, non-violent offender, he would likely not serve time.

Weiss’ office also indicted Hunter Biden in December on nine felony counts stemming from his failure to pay $1.4 million in taxes over three years at a time when he was in the throes of a addiction. The back taxes and penalties were ultimately paid in full by a third party, identified by ABC News as Hunter Biden’s lawyer and confidant Kevin Morris. Hunter Biden has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The trial in the case was scheduled to begin June 20 in California, but Lowell successfully asked the judge to postpone it until September 5 – increasing the likelihood that a jury could deliberate on whether to convict the president’s son of several counts. the final weeks of the 2024 election.

ABC News

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