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Jury selection begins in Hunter Biden gun case

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) – A federal gun case against Hunter, President Joe Biden’s son opened Monday with jury selection, following the collapse of a plea deal that would have avoided the spectacle of a trial so close to the 2024 election. First lady Jill Biden sat in the front row from the courtroom, as a sign of support for his son.

In a statement, the president said he had “boundless love for my son, confidence in him and respect for his strength.”

“I am the president, but I am also a father,” he said, adding that he would make no further comment on the matter. “Jill and I love our son and are very proud of the man he is today.”

Hunter Biden, who spent the weekend with his parents, was charged in Delaware with three felonies stemming from a 2018 gun purchase while he was, according to his memoir, in the grip of a crack addiction . He was accused of lying to a federally licensed gun dealer, making a false statement on the application used to screen gun applicants by claiming he was not a drug user and illegally possess the weapon for 11 days.

He pleaded not guilty and claimed he was unfairly targeted by the Justice Department, after Republicans denounced the now-defunct plea deal as special treatment for the Democratic president’s son.

The trial comes just days after Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for the 2024 presidential election, was convicted of 34 crimes At New York. A jury found the former president guilty of a scheme to conceal a hush money payment to a pornographic actor to ward off damage to his 2016 presidential campaign. The two criminal cases are unrelated, but their proximity highlights the extent to which criminal courts took center stage during the 2024 campaign.

In Delaware, potential jurors who answered “yes” to a questionnaire were questioned individually by Judge Maryellen Noreika to determine whether they could be fair and impartial. One by one they were sent back, winnowing the pool.

Questions ranged from their knowledge of the case to their thoughts on gun ownership and whether they or someone close to them had struggled with drug or addiction or ever owned a gun. Other questions centered on what role politics might have played in the accusations.

One potential juror said she didn’t know if she could be impartial because of the opinion she formed about Hunter Biden based on media reports.

“That’s not a good answer,” she replied when asked for her opinion by a lawyer. Another potential juror was dismissed because his family has a long history in law enforcement and he said he couldn’t be impartial. A third was excused because he was very familiar with the case and: “It appears that politics plays a large role in determining who is charged with what and when.” »

Only one potential juror answered “no” to all questions and moved on to the next step. Another who was not licensed said he had a concealed carry permit and owned three handguns. The man said he has strong opinions on gun ownership and believes every law-abiding citizen should be able to own a gun.

“I believe the Second Amendment is very important,” he explained.

Hunter Biden will also face a separate trial in California in September for non-payment of $1.4 million in taxes. Both cases should have been resolved through a deal with prosecutors last July, the culmination of a years-long investigation into his business dealings.

But Noreika, who was appointed to the bench by Trump, questioned some unusual aspects of the deal, which included a proposed guilty plea for minor offenses to resolve tax crimes and a diversion agreement on the gun charge, which meant as long as he stayed. in difficulty for two years, the case would be closed. The lawyers failed to find a solution and the deal collapsed. Attorney General Merrick Garland then appointed the lead investigator as special counsel in August, and a month later, Hunter Biden was indicted.

This trial is not about Hunter Biden’s foreign affairs – which Republicans took hold of without evidence to attempt to portray the Biden family as corrupt. But it will uncover and expose some of Hunter Biden’s darkest moments.

The president’s allies are worried the toll that the trial could take on the elder Biden, who has long been concerned about the well-being and sobriety of her only living son and now must watch her son’s painful past mistakes be publicly scrutinized. He’s also protective: Hunter Biden was with his father the entire weekend before the affair began, riding bikes with his father and going to church together.

President Biden, in a last-minute change of plans, left his Rehoboth Beach home to return to his Wilmington resort on Sunday evening. Boarding a helicopter Sunday was the only time the president was seen publicly without his son all weekend.

Hunter Biden arrived first at the Delaware courthouse on Monday. The first lady, who turned 73 on Monday, followed about 15 minutes later and walked briskly toward the courthouse, flanked by U.S. Secret Service agents. Hunter Biden’s sister Ashley Biden was also in court, as was his wife Melissa. The President in Wilmington until leaving for a campaign reception in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Allies also fear the trial could become a distraction as the president attempts to campaign amid anemic polling and prepares to an upcoming presidential debate while the debates are taking place.

The case against Hunter Biden dates back to a period when, by his own public admission, he was addicted to crack cocaine. His descent into drugs and alcohol followed the death of his brother in 2015, Beau Biden, from cancer. He purchased and possessed a firearm for 11 days in October 2018 and indicated on the gun purchase form that he did not use drugs.

Hunter Biden’s lawyers suggested they could argue he didn’t consider himself a drug addict when prosecutors say he checked “no” to the question on the form. They will also attack the credibility of the gun store owner.

If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison, although first-time offenders fall far short of the maximum sentence, and it is unclear whether the judge would grant him time behind bars.

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Long reported in Washington. Associated Press Writer Alanna Durkin Richer in Washington contributed to this report. Follow AP’s coverage of Hunter Biden at https://apnews.com/hub/hunter-biden.

News Source : apnews.com
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