Opening statements on tap in Hunter Biden's federal gun trial

The jury has been seated in Hunter Biden’s federal gun trial, and opening statements are set to take place Tuesday in a federal courtroom in Wilmington, Delaware.

Then, the prosecution’s first witness, FBI Special Agent Erika Jensen, is expected to testify. In their trial brief, prosecutors outlined evidence Jensen’s testimony will cover, including Hunter Biden’s text messages — some displaying images of controlled substances — and excerpts from his memoir, “Beautiful Things.”

U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika said Monday that the court would try to accommodate a motion by news media to obtain exhibits that are admitted into evidence.

In addition to Jensen, the prosecution is expected to call Hunter Biden’s ex-wife Kathleen Buhle; a woman Hunter Biden was romantically involved with from 2017-2018; his brother Beau Biden’s widow, Hallie Biden, with whom he was romantically involved, and five other witnesses, including FBI and DEA agents.

The president’s son was indicted by a federal grand jury in September after a diversion agreement for a felony gun offense and a plea deal related to misdemeanor tax charges unraveled when Judge Noreika questioned whether the agreement would enable Hunter Biden to avoid potential future charges.

He now faces three felony charges stemming from his alleged illegal purchase and possession of a firearm in 2018 while he was a drug user. He has pleaded not guilty. 

Jury selection

Twelve jurors and four alternates were sworn in Monday, 10 women and six men, on the first day of the trial. Noreika then went over instructions with the panel. 

During the jury selection process, all but one of the potential jurors knew of the case due to news reports, and many said they had an immediate connection to someone struggling with drug or alcohol abuse.

By 11:45 a.m., a dozen potential jurors out of 30 were excused for cause, including scheduling conflicts and political views. One person asserted gun ownership was a “God-given right,” while another said her opinion of the Bidens was “not a good one.” 

The defense struck another potential juror — who said he is a Fox News viewer — a former Wilmington police officer and then worked with Jill Biden at the college where she taught. He also said he’d met President Biden at multiple events and donated to a challenger to Beau Biden in his race to be Delaware attorney general. The potential juror also told the judge he believes prosecutors file cases for political reasons, mentioning the criminal case against former President Donald Trump in New York and, when asked if “political prosecutions” ever target Democrats, he offered an emphatic “no” in response. 

Other potential jurors also answered “yes” when the judge asked “are some Department of Justice and law enforcement probes politically motivated?” Several cited Trump’s New York case. 

Before the trial began, Hunter Biden suffered a couple of setbacks: Norieka declined to allow his lawyers to admit into evidence a second version of the firearms purchase form he filled out to buy the gun, and she granted the government‘s motion to exclude one of the defense’s expert witnesses, Dr. Elie Aoun, who was to testify on the nature of Hunter Biden’s drug abuse and whether he understood himself to be an addict.

What are the federal gun charges against Hunter Biden?

In the three-count indictment, the president’s son is charged with making false statements on a federal gun form about his drug use, certifying he was not a user of or addicted to any controlled substance during a period when prosecutors allege he was addicted to crack cocaine. Hunter Biden purchased a Colt Cobra .38 Special revolver, and it remained in his possession for 11 days before it was discarded in an outdoor receptacle by Hallie Biden, his romantic partner at the time. 

Hunter Biden’s attorneys have decried the charges and argued they were “unconstitutional” and “unprecedented,” as well as in violation of the diversion agreement they maintain was still legally binding and valid.

Prosecutors are expected to introduce evidence that details Hunter Biden’s use of controlled substances leading up to and during the period he purchased the firearm. 

Hunter Biden’s attorneys want to call their own expert witnesses on addiction and forensic psychiatry and forensic toxicology.

The president’s son faces up to 25 years in prison and $750,000 in fines if convicted on all counts.

Separately, he faces nine federal tax charges in the central district of California in a second indictment brought by Weiss’ office where federal prosecutors allege Hunter Biden engaged in a “four-year scheme” to avoid paying at least $1.4 million in federal taxes. References to the tax charges are not admissible in his gun trial in Delaware. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges.

Robert Legare contributed to this report.

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