NATIONAL NEWS

Defense calls Hunter Biden’s daughter Naomi in federal gun trial after prosecution rests case

Jun 7, 2024, 11:47 AM

WILMINGTON, DELAWARE - JUNE 06: Hunter Biden, son of U.S. President Joe Biden, arrives to the J. Ca...

WILMINGTON, DELAWARE - JUNE 06: Hunter Biden, son of U.S. President Joe Biden, arrives to the J. Caleb Boggs Federal Building on June 06, 2024 in Wilmington, Delaware. The trial for Hunter Biden's felony gun charges continues today with additional witnesses. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

(Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Hunter Biden’s daughter Naomi testified Friday in his federal gun trial about visiting her father at a California rehab center and said he seemed to be improving around the time of the gun purchase in 2018.

“I hadn’t seen my dad in a long time, and I knew he was in a rehab facility there. He reached out,” she told jurors softly. As she was dismissed from the stand, she paused to hug her dad before leaving the courtroom.

The defense began calling witnesses shortly after federal prosecutors wrapped up their case. The week’s proceedings have been largely dedicated to highlighting the seriousness of his drug problem through highly personal testimony, all in an effort by prosecutors to prove that the president’s son lied on a mandatory gun-purchase form when he said he was not illegally using or addicted to drugs.

Defense attorney Abbe Lowell began by calling another gun store clerk who was there when Hunter Biden bought the gun, raising questions about what he saw as inconsistencies on the form. He also questioned the owner of the shop who allowed the sale to go through using Hunter’s passport, though it did not have his license plate number as required. The president’s brother James was expected on the stand later.

As Hunter Biden prepared to leave the courtroom for a lunch break, he motioned to the first row that was full of of his family members, including first lady Jill Biden, who traveled back from France for the proceedings. The first lady took Hunter’s hand and held it until they got to the door.

In October 2018, the month Hunter Biden bought the gun, Naomi traveled from Washington to New York in her father’s truck to move her boyfriend’s belongings. Hunter drove Joe Biden’s Cadillac to New York later that month to retrieve his truck, leaving the Cadillac with Naomi. She told jurors she didn’t see any drug paraphernalia or evidence of drug use.

“He seemed great. He seemed hopeful,” she said.

But prosecutors showed Naomi texts where he didn’t respond to her for hours.

At 2 a.m., Hunter texted Naomi asking where the keys to his truck were and whether her boyfriend could meet and swap vehicles.

“Right now?” she responded.

“Do you know what your father was doing at two o’clock in the morning and why he was asking you for the car then?” Wise asked.

“No,” she said.

But Wise read out to her a text message from the time, where she responded: “I’m really sorry dad I can’t take this.”

Jurors heard earlier in the week from Hunter Biden’s ex-wife and a former girlfriend who testified about his habitual crack use and their failed efforts to help him get clean. They saw images of the president’s son bare-chested and disheveled in a filthy room, and half-naked holding crack pipes. And they watched video of his crack cocaine weighed on a scale.

Prosecutors say the evidence is necessary to prove that Hunter, 54, was in the throes of addiction when he bought the gun and therefore lied when he checked “no” on the form that asked whether he was “an unlawful user of, or addicted to” drugs.

Lowell has argued Hunter did not think of himself as an “addict” when he bought the gun and did not intend to deceive anyone.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden worked to walk the line between president and father, telling ABC in an interview that he would accept the jury’s verdict and ruling out a pardon for his son. Earlier this week, he issued a statement saying: “I am the President, but I am also a Dad. Jill and I love our son, and we are so proud of the man he is today.”

Biden is in France this week for D-Day anniversary events. Jill Biden, who attended court most of the week, flew back from France on Thursday to be at the trial again Friday. She will return to France for a state dinner.

Hunter Biden has been charged with three felonies: 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.

He has pleaded not guilty. He had hoped to resolve the gun case and another separate tax case in California with a plea deal last year, the result of a yearslong investigation into his business dealings. The deal had him pleading guilty to lower-level charges that would have avoided the spectacle of a trial so close to the 2024 election. It fell apart after Judge Maryellen Noreika questioned unusual aspects of the proposed agreement, and the lawyers couldn’t resolve them.

Hunter Biden said he got charged because the Justice Department bowed to pressure from Republicans who argued the Democratic president’s son was getting special treatment, and who have escalated their attacks on the criminal justice system since Donald Trump’s recent conviction in New York City in a hush money case.

It’s unclear yet whether Hunter Biden will testify. But jurors have already heard his voice. Prosecutors played lengthy audio excerpts in court of his 2021 memoir “Beautiful Things,” in which he wrote about his lifelong addiction issues and spiraling descent after death of his brother Beau in 2015. The book, written after he got sober, covers the period he had the gun but doesn’t mention it specifically.

Lowell has said Hunter Biden’s state of mind was different when he wrote the book than when he purchased the gun, when he didn’t believe he had an addiction. He pointed out to jurors that some of the questions on the firearms transaction record are in the present tense, such as “are you an unlawful user of or addicted to” drugs.

And he’s suggested Hunter Biden might have felt he had a drinking problem at the time, but not a drug problem. Alcohol abuse doesn’t preclude a gun purchase.

The reason law enforcement raised any questions about the revolver is because Hallie Biden, Beau’s widow, found it unloaded in Hunter’s truck on Oct. 23, 2018, panicked and tossed it into a garbage can at Janssen’s Market. She testified about the episode Thursday.

He noticed it missing and asked her whether she had taken it.

“Are you insane?” he texted. He told her to go back to the market to look for it.

Surveillance footage played for jurors showed her digging around in the trash can for the gun, but it wasn’t there. She asked store officials if someone had taken out the trash. Hallie testified Hunter told her to file a police report because the gun was registered in his name. She called the police while she was still at the store.

Officers located the man who inadvertently took the gun along with other recyclables from the trash and retrieved it. The case was eventually closed because of lack of cooperation from Hunter Biden, who was considered the victim.

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.

He also faces a separate trial in September on charges of failing to pay $1.4 million in taxes.

___

Long reported from Washington.

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Defense calls Hunter Biden’s daughter Naomi in federal gun trial after prosecution rests case