Hunter Biden's ex-wife, other family members expected to take the stand in his federal gun trial

Witness testimony is expected to continue Wednesday in Hunter Biden's gun trial

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

Federal prosecutors in Hunter Biden's gun trial have spent hours showing jurors evidence of his drug problem, seeking to reveal through his own words and writing the depth of his addiction in order to show it was still going on when he bought a firearm and, they say, lied on a form to purchase it.

Testimony was expected to continue Wednesday. Hunter Biden's ex-wife Kathleen Buhle is expected to be among the witnesses; she was married to President Joe Biden's son for roughly 20 years. They have three children, divorcing in 2016 after his infidelity and drug abuse became too much to overcome, according to her memoir entitled, “If We Break" about the dissolution of their marriage.

She's one of several Biden family and friends expected to testify in a trial that has quickly become a highly personal and detailed tour of Hunter Biden's mistakes and drug usage as the 2024 presidential election looms and allies worry about the toll it will take on the president, who is deeply concerned about the health and sustained sobriety of his only living son. Prosecutors argue the testimony is necessary to show Hunter Biden's state of mind when he bought the gun.

He has been charged with three felonies stemming from the purchase of a gun in October 2018, accused of lying to a federally licensed gun dealer, making a false claim on the application by saying he was not a drug user and illegally having the gun for 11 days.

“No one is allowed to lie on a federal form like that, even Hunter Biden,” prosecutor Derek Hines told jurors on Tuesday. “He crossed the line when he chose to buy a gun and lied about a federal background check ... the defendant’s choice to buy a gun is why we are here.”

“When the defendant filled out that form, he knew he was a drug addict,” and prosecutors don’t have to prove he was using the day he purchased the firearm, Hines said.

First lady Jill Biden and her daughter Ashley sat in the courtroom for much of Tuesday. Hunter Biden’s attorney argued that his client did not believe he was in the throes of addiction when he stated in the paperwork that he did not have a drug problem. In the short time that he had the gun, he did nothing with it, and the weapon was never even loaded, attorney Abbe Lowell said in his opening statement.

“You will see that he is not guilty,” Lowell said.

Lowell said the form asks whether you “are” a drug user. “It does not say ‘have you ever been,’” and he suggested the president’s son did not think of himself as someone with a drug problem when he purchased the gun.

His state of mind should be considered at the time of the purchase, not later on, when, after he got sober, he wrote a memoir “Beautiful Things,” about some of his darkest moments. The jury heard lengthy audio excerpts from the book that traces his descent following the death of his brother in 2015 from cancer.

The trial comes after a plea deal with prosecutors fell apart that would have resolved the gun case and a separate tax case and avoided the spectacle of a trial. Hunter Biden has since pleaded not guilty and has said he’s being unfairly targeted by the Justice Department, after Republicans slammed the now-defunct plea deal as a sweetheart deal for the Democratic president’s son.

The 12-person panel heard opening statements Tuesday, and testimony from an FBI agent who read aloud some of his personal messages including some that came from a laptop he left at a Delaware repair shop and never retrieved. In 2020, the contents made their way to Republicans and were publicly leaked, revealing some highly personal messages about his work and his life. He has since sued over the leaked information.

In one exchange with Beau's widow Hallie on the day after he bought the gun, she wrote: “I called you 500 times in past 24 hours.” Hunter replied less than a minute later, informing her that he was “sleeping on a car smoking crack on 4th street and Rodney.”

“There’s my truth,” he added in a follow-up text.

But during cross-examination, the FBI agent testified that Hunter Biden sent fewer messages about seeking drugs in October 2018, around the time when he purchased the gun, than in February 2019, a later period in which Lowell described his client as struggling significantly with addiction.

Lowell also called into question the receipts for the rehab facility, asking whether the agent knew whether he had been treated for drugs or alcohol. She said she could not.

His sister Ashley Biden, watching from the courtroom, dabbed at her eyes with a tissue and eventually left.

Attorneys said jurors would hear testimony from the president’s brother James Biden, who is close with Hunter and helped his nephew through rehab stints in the past. They will also hear how Hallie Biden became addicted to crack during a brief relationship with Hunter.

Hallie took the gun from Hunter and tossed it into the garbage at a nearby market, afraid of what he might do with it. The weapon was later found by someone collecting cans and eventually turned over to police.

If convicted, Hunter Biden faces up to 25 years in prison, though first-time offenders do not get anywhere near the maximum, and it’s unclear whether the judge would give him time behind bars.

The trial is unfolding shortly after Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, was convicted of 34 felonies in New York City. The two criminal cases are unrelated, but their proximity underscores how the courts have taken center stage during the 2024 campaign.

Hunter Biden also faces a trial in California in September on charges of failing to pay $1.4 million in taxes. Both cases were to have been resolved through the deal with prosecutors last July, the culmination of a yearslong investigation into his business dealings.

But Judge Maryellen Noreika, who was nominated to the bench by Trump, questioned some unusual aspects of the deal. The lawyers could not come to a resolution on her questions, and the deal fell apart. Attorney General Merrick Garland then appointed a former U.S. attorney for Delaware, David Weiss, as a special counsel in August, and a month later Hunter Biden was indicted.

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Long reported from Washington.

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Follow the AP's coverage of Hunter Biden at https://apnews.com/hub/hunter-biden.

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