June 14th, 2024

Widow of Beau Biden tells jurors in Hunter Biden’s gun trial that she threw firearm in a trash can

By Michael Kunzelman, Randall Chase, Colleen Long And Mike Catalini, The Associated Press on June 6, 2024.

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) – The widow of Hunter Biden’s brother told jurors in his federal gun trial Thursday about the moment she found the revolver in his truck, describing how she put it into a leather pouch, stuffed it into a shopping bag and tossed it in a trash can outside a market near her home.

“I panicked, and I wanted to get rid of them,” she testified about finding the gun and ammunition in the vehicle’s console in October 2018. “I didn’t want him to hurt himself, and I didn’t want my kids to find it and hurt themselves.”

The purchase of the Colt revolver by Hunter Biden – and Hallie Biden’s frenzied disposal of it – are the fulcrum of the case against him. Federal prosecutors say the president’s son was in the throes of a heavy crack addiction when he bought the gun. He’s 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.

Hunter Biden, who has pleaded not guilty, has said the Justice Department is bending to political pressure from Republicans and that he’s being unfairly targeted.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden said in an interview with ABC he would accept the jury’s verdict and ruled out a pardon for his son. And the first lady left France, where attended D-Day anniversary events with the president, to head back to Wilmington. She was expected to attend the trial again Friday before returning to France for a state dinner.

Hallie Biden, who had a brief romantic relationship with Hunter after Beau Biden died in 2015, testified that from the time Hunter returned to Delaware from a 2018 trip to California until she threw his gun away, she did not see him using drugs. That time period included the day he bought the weapon.

Much of her testimony focused on Oct. 23, 2018 – 11 days after he bought the gun and when she tossed it. Hunter was staying with her and seemed exhausted. Asked by the prosecutor if it appeared that Hunter was using drugs around then, she said, “He could have been.”

As Hunter slept in her home, Hallie Biden went to check his car. She said she was hoping to help him get or stay sober, free of both alcohol and cocaine. She said she found the remnants of crack cocaine and drug paraphernalia. She also found the gun Hunter purchased in a box with a broken lock that kept it from fully closing. There was ammunition too.

Hallie said she considered hiding the gun but thought her kids might find it, so she decided to throw it away.

“I realize it was a stupid idea now, but I was panicking,” she said.

Hunter Biden watched expressionless from the courtroom during her testimony. She told jurors that she found crack at her home and saw him using it. She was with him occasionally when he saw dealers. Prosecutor Leo Wise asked Hallie about her own 2018 trip to California, where she visited Hunter at the Roosevelt Hotel, and asked her whether she was also using drugs.

“Yes, I was,” she said.

“And who introduced you to it?'”

“Hunter did,” Hallie said as Hunter rested his face on his hand and looked down.

“It was a terrible experience that I went through, and I’m embarrassed and ashamed, and I regret that period of my life,” she added.

Hallie testified she stopped using drugs in August 2018, but that Hunter continued smoking crack.

Much of the prosecution’s case has been dedicated to highlighting the seriousness of his crack addiction and showcasing to jurors bare-chested moments with ex-girlfriends, infidelity and crack pipes – judgment lapses they believe prove he was actively using when he checked “no” on the form. Prosecutors argue that the evidence is necessary to show his state of mind when he bought the gun.

After Hallie Biden threw the unloaded gun in the trash can at Janssen’s Market, 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 said 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 would have been considered the victim. Jurors also heard from the officers who handled the case and from the man who found the gun.

The Democratic president’s son arrived at court Thursday with a copy of his memoir, “Beautiful Things,” tucked under his arm. The book, written after he got sober in 2021, figures heavily into prosecutors’ case: They’ve played audio excerpts for jurors in which he details his descent into drugs and alcohol following the death of his brother in 2015 from cancer.

Defense attorney Abbe 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. 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.

Jurors have also heard from the gun store clerk, who testified about how he walked Hunter Biden through a few options before he settled on the $900 gun. The clerk then watched as the customer filled out the firearms transaction record, a required document for the purchase of a gun, and saw him check off “no” to the question of whether he was “an unlawful user of or addicted to” marijuana, stimulants, narcotics or any other controlled substance.

Gordon Cleveland, the former clerk at StarQuest Shooters & Survival Supply, said he saw Biden sign the form, which includes a warning about the consequences of submitting false information.

In his cross-examination Thursday, Lowell pointed out that some of the questions on the form are in the present tense, such as “are you an unlawful user of or addicted to” drugs. He has suggested Hunter Biden did not believe he had an active drug problem.

The proceedings are unfolding after the collapse of a plea deal that would have resolved the gun charge and a separate tax case, and spared the Biden family the spectacle of a trial so close to the 2024 election.

The president’s sister, Valerie, was in court Thursday. First lady Jill Biden spent the first part of the week there before leaving for France. Allies worry about the toll the proceedings will take on the president, who is deeply concerned about the health and sustained sobriety of his only living son.

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.

The trial is playing out 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.

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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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