Hunter Biden trial recap: Joe Biden's son guilty on all charges in historic gun case

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WILMINGTON, Del. − A federal jury convicted Hunter Biden of federal gun charges, a historic first for the offspring of a sitting president, after a trial featuring wrenching emotional testimony about his drug use from his ex-wife and sister-in-law.

President Joe Biden's son faces up to 25 years in prison for three charges − lying on a federal screening form about his drug use, lying to a gun dealer and possessing the gun − although first-time, nonviolent offenders typically get shorter sentences.

The 54-year old businessman and attorney's case came after a plea deal fell apart in July 2023 that could have resolved gun and taxes charges without prison time. Hunter Biden still faces another federal trial starting Sept. 5 in California for allegedly avoiding taxes.

Hunter Biden in a statement following the verdict said he was "disappointed by the outcome" but "grateful" for his family and loved ones. Biden's criminal charges coincide with his father campaigning for reelection.

Catch up with live updates from the USA TODAY Network.

A look back at USA TODAY's Hunter Biden fact checks

Hunter Biden has long been a subject of misinformation online, with social media users speculating about his drug usefinancial dealings and federal indictments. From miscaptioned videos to false claims about his conviction, viral claims have repeatedly misrepresented the president's son and his relationship with the law.

In the wake of Biden’s conviction on three federal gun charges, the USA TODAY Fact Check team recapped some of the false and misleading claims that have gone spread most widely — and what’s actually true.

Read more: After Hunter Biden's guilty verdict, a look back at viral falsehoods

Joe Biden doesn't address Hunter Biden case in first public comments since verdict

Joe Biden gave remarks on gun violence in Washington on Tuesday, just hours after his son was convicted in his felony gun trial.

The president spoke at Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund’s “Gun Sense University,” where he called for banning assault weapons, instituting universal background checks and passing other gun control measures.

Joe Biden was specifically addressing gun violence in his remarks. Hunter Biden was not accused of physically harming others in the felony case.

– Marina Pitofsky

What kind of gun did Hunter Biden buy?

The gun Hunter Biden purchased and held onto for 11 days in 2018 is a .38 caliber Cold Cobra, known as a 38 special. The revolver is a rimmed, centerfire cartridge designed by Smith & Wesson that can range in price from a couple hundred to a thousand dollars.

The handgun is known for its accuracy and is often used for small-game hunting, recreational target shooting, and personal defense. The president's son told Delaware State Police he bought it for target practice in 2018.

– Rachel Barber

Can Joe Biden pardon Hunter Biden?

Joe Biden said he would not pardon Hunter Biden while he was on trial for federal gun charges last week, according to a wide-ranging exclusive interview with ABC News.

ABC anchor David Muir, interviewing Biden in France for the 80th anniversary of D-Day, asked whether he would accept the outcome of his son’s trial.

“Yes,” the president said.

Muir also asked if he would rule out a pardon for his son.

“Yes,” the president said.

– Bart Jansen

Why was Hunter Biden discharged from the military?

Less than a year after he was commissioned in 2013, Hunter Biden was administratively discharged from the Navy after testing positive for cocaine on a drug test.

On the presidential debate stage in 2020, former President Donald Trump falsely claimed Hunter Biden was dishonorably discharged from the Navy.

"Hunter got thrown out of the military," Trump said. "He was thrown out, dishonorably discharged for cocaine use."

An administrative discharge is standard procedure after failing a drug test. It is different from a dishonorable discharge, which is usually the result of misconduct.

– Rachel Barber

Hunter Biden's guilty verdict adds to Joe Biden's distractions

Hunter Biden's felony conviction on Tuesday could continue to distract President Joe Biden during pivotal weeks of his 2024 reelection bid, with the first presidential debate against former President Donald Trump fast approaching and the president's son's second federal criminal trial coming shortly before Election Day.

Although not a part of his father's campaign and not on the ballot himself, Hunter Biden's conviction on three gun related charges could also complicate Joe Biden's campaign's labeling of his opponent, Trump, as a felon who should not return to the Oval Office.

– Sarah D. Wire and Phillip M. Bailey

What's next for Hunter Biden?

Hunter Biden’s conviction in his federal gun trial is not the end of his legal drama.

Still pending are the 54-year-old's sentence, his potential appeal and a Supreme Court case that could overturn the law behind his charges. The president's son − a lawyer, businessman and author − also faces a second federal trial on tax charges set to begin Sept. 5 in Los Angeles.

Biden faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison for the three charges: lying on a federal screening form by denying, lying to a gun dealer and possession of a firearm while using or addicted to unlawful drugs. But sentences for first-time and nonviolent offenders are typically shorter than the maximum possible.

– Bart Jansen

GOP lawmakers both celebrate and downplay Hunter Biden verdict

For the Republicans who have long sought to prove wrongdoing by President Joe Biden and his family, Tuesday’s jury decision finding the president’s adult son, Hunter, guilty on all charges was welcome news.

However, the fanfare was somewhat muted – at least, less than one might expect from a Congressional cohort that has been probing the Biden family's business ties for more than a year and with a presidential campaign already in full bloom ahead of November's Election Day.

House Republicans spearheaded an investigation in 2023 and early 2024 into Hunter Biden’s ties to foreign businesses as part of an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. They say Joe Biden benefited financially from Hunter Biden’s business deals, but have not unearthed evidence that supports that claim and the inquiry has largely fizzled out.

– Riley Beggin and Ken Tran

David Weiss speaks publicly after verdict

Justice Department special counsel David Weiss said in a three-minute statement that the verdict reflected that no one in the country is above the law. He thanked Attorney General Merrick Garland for ensuring his independence of the investigation.

“Ultimately this case was not just about addiction,” Weiss said. “This case was about the illegal choices the defendant made while in the throes of addiction.”

Weiss did not take questions from the media, noting DOJ has "additional trial work to be done" on the Hunter Biden case.

– Bart Jansen and Isabel Hughes

Juror: ‘Oh man, I don’t want to be here.’

A couple of the jurors who heard the Hunter Biden trial are speaking publicly about their deliberations.

One woman who served said she feared the case would be politically charged once she realized the trial involved the president’s son.

“Oh man, I don’t want to be here,” she said. “I was expecting all of us to be at each other’s throats because you know of who his father is and how the political climate is in this country,” she said.

But after being selected, evaluating the evidence and returning guilty verdicts, she said there was not a problem with deliberations.

“It turned out much better than what I expected,” she said. “There was not fighting, none of that in the jury room.”

Another juror agreed that politics played no role in any jurors vote.

“It was just following the evidence,” the juror said. “We just had to find out the truth.”

– Xerxes Wilson and Bart Jansen

Jurors: First vote was split even

Two jurors who presided over Hunter Biden’s criminal trial said they took an evenly split vote on count one shortly after receiving the case for less than an hour of deliberation on Monday afternoon.

From there, they studied the elements of the charges in the jury instructions and talked, jurors said. They deliberated for about two hours after returning guilty verdicts.

“We broke it down and heard other people’s opinions,” one juror said after issuing the verdict. “That is what moved me to guilty on all three.”

– Xerxes Wilson

Juror says Hunter Biden case was a 'waste of taxpayer dollars'

A female juror who lives near New Castle, Delaware said she felt the case should not have been prosecuted. She said Biden needed rehab, “definitely not imprisonment."

“In my opinion this was a waste of taxpayer dollars,” the woman said as she left the courthouse. “They could have just fined him.”

– Bart Jansen

Here's how Hunter Biden, his lawyer Abbe Lowell reacted to verdict

Biden issued a statement thanking his family for their love and support during the trial while saying he was “disappointed by the outcome.”

“Recovery is possible by the grace of God, and I am blessed to experience that gift one day at a time,” Biden said.

His lawyer, Abbe Lowell, said he respected the jury’s verdict, but he would “continue to vigorously pursue all the legal challenges available to Hunter.”

– Bart Jansen

Donald Trump advisor comments on Hunter Biden's conviction

Kash Patel, a national security advisor for former President Donald Trump, said in a statement Tuesday that "Hunter Biden’s guilty verdict is a rare example of constitutional justice, one not where individuals receive biased treatment based on their last name. The jury was able to consider the prosecution and the defense evidence in full, in accordance with due process."

Patel alleged without evidence that the former president did not receive the same treatment in his New York hush money trial, when he was convicted on 34 felony counts.

– Erin Mansfield and Marina Pitofsky

Joe Biden reacts to Hunter Biden's verdict

President Joe Biden released a statement on Tuesday following Hunter Biden's conviction, saying that "I will accept the outcome of this case and will continue to respect the judicial process as Hunter considers an appeal."

He added that "(first lady Jill Biden) and I will always be there for Hunter and the rest of our family with our love and support. Nothing will ever change that.”

– Joey Garrison

How many kids does Hunter Biden have?

Hunter Biden has five children. He has three daughters with his ex-wife Kathleen Buhle named Naomi Biden, Finnegan Biden, and Maisy Biden. In 2019, he welcomed a son with his second wife Melissa Cohen, Beau Biden IV., named after his late older brother.

It was also revealed that he had secretly fathered another daughter with an Arkansas woman named Lunden Roberts in 2018. Her name is Navy Roberts. President Joe Biden first publicly acknowledged his granddaughter in 2023.

– Rachel Barber

Read Hunter Biden's verdict

When will Hunter Biden be sentenced? Judge Maryellen Noreika doesn't immediately set date

Maryellen Noreika, the judge who presided over Hunter Biden's case, didn't set a sentencing date for the president's son on Tuesday.

"Usually when we do sentencing it is 120 days out, but we will get in touch with you," she said before the courtroom adjourned.

–Xerxes Wilson

What is Hunter Biden guilty of?

The president's son was convicted on three firearms felonies. In October 2018, Hunter Biden walked into a gun shop north of Wilmington, Delaware, and purchased a revolver. People who purchase firearms are required to fill out a standardized form that asks whether they are an unlawful user or are addicted to controlled substances, narcotics and other listed substances. Biden is accused of answering "no" to that question on the form.

But Biden has been open about his longtime struggles with crack cocaine addiction. He's written about it in his 2021 memoir, "Beautiful Things," and discussed it during a court hearing last year, stating he's been sober since 2019.

Biden faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison, although first-time and non-violent offenders are often given shorter terms.

– Xerxes Wilson

2024: Hunter Biden guilty verdict adds to president's distractions ahead of Trump debate

Hunter Biden looks to lawyer, wife after verdict announced

Hunter Biden pat Abbe Lowell, his lawyer, on the back after his felony conviction was announced. He then turned to look at his wife, Melissa Cohen Biden and hugged other members of his defense team.

He was holding his wife's hand as he was ushered into elevators after the court adjourned.

– Xerxes Wilson and Esteban Parra

What's next for Hunter Biden? Sentencing, likely appeal and looming trial on tax charges

Hallie Biden received texts about drugs from Hunter Biden

Hallie Biden, the widow of Beau Biden, testified during the trial about how her brother-in-law introduced her to drugs. She also walked the jury through a series of text messages in the days after Hunter Biden bought the gun on Oct. 12, 2018.

A text the next day said he was behind a baseball stadium in Wilmington “waiting on a dealer named Mookie.”

Hallie Biden later texted Hunter Biden, stating that she tried calling him “500 times in the past 24 hours.” He eventually responded: “I was sleeping on a car smoking crack on 4th Street and Rodney.”

Hunter Biden called Hallie Biden ‘stupid’ for trashing gun

Hallie Biden told the jury she found the gun in Hunter Biden's car 11 days after he bought it. Rather than risk their kids finding it, she put the gun in a leather case and drove to a grocery store, where she threw it into a trash can.

“I realized it was a stupid idea now, but I was just panicking,” Hallie Biden said.

Hunter Biden confronted her when he discovered what she had done.

“It’s hard for me to believe anyone is that stupid,” Hunter Biden said in a text. “Do you want me dead?” he asked in a later text.

Prosecutors entered into evidence the Colt Cobra .38 caliber revolver that Hunter Biden purchased in October 2018.
Prosecutors entered into evidence the Colt Cobra .38 caliber revolver that Hunter Biden purchased in October 2018.

Retiree found gun in grocery store trash can

An 80-year-old retiree, Edward Banner, who scavenged trash containers for aluminum cans, found the gun outside Janssen’s Market in Greenville. A state police lieutenant tracked him down and asked whether he’d found anything unusual.

“I definitely remember finding that,” Banner said.

FBI chemist found cocaine residue on Hunter Biden gun pouch

Forensic chemist Jason Brewer testified that he found cocaine in the residue on the leather pouch that held Hunter Biden’s gun. Two spots on the pouch had a “minimal amount” of “off-white powder,” which Brewer pointed out in a picture prosecutors projected onto a screen in Biden’s trial on gun charges.

“Cocaine was identified within the residual white particles I sampled,” he told the jury.

Hunter Biden, the son of U.S. President Joe Biden, leaves the J. Caleb Boggs Federal Building on June 6, 2024 in Wilmington, Delaware. The trial for Hunter Biden's felony gun charges continues today with additional witnesses.
Hunter Biden, the son of U.S. President Joe Biden, leaves the J. Caleb Boggs Federal Building on June 6, 2024 in Wilmington, Delaware. The trial for Hunter Biden's felony gun charges continues today with additional witnesses.

Hunter Biden trial followed collapse of plea deal for gun and tax charges

A plea agreement that fell apart last July offered the possibility Biden could avoid jail time for all of the charges. Noreika rejected the deal because of disputes between prosecutors and defense lawyers about Biden’s protection from future charges.

Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed the U.S. attorney in Delaware, David Weiss, a special counsel to continue an independent investigation. Biden's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, argued unsuccessfully the charges should be dismissed because no new evidence had emerged since the plea agreement.

The gun indictment charged Biden with knowingly deceiving a firearms dealer by buying a Colt Cobra 38SPL revolver. He was charged with falsely filling out a federal form denying he was addicted to any narcotics. And he was charged with knowingly possessing the revolver despite the restrictions against people addicted to drugs owning firearms. The three charges carried a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison.

The tax indictment charges Biden with three felony tax offenses and six misdemeanors. He allegedly engaged in a scheme in which he failed to pay at least $1.4 million in self-assessed taxes from 2016 through 2019, and also evaded tax assessment for 2018 when he filed false returns.

The previous agreement would have allowed Biden to plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges, which could have resulted in no jail time, and enter a pretrial program for a gun charge that could have been dismissed if he complied.

But Republicans blasted the agreement as a sweetheart deal and Hunter Biden became a lightning rod for criticism of his father.

Where does Hunter Biden live?

Hunter Biden lives in southern California. There, he faces tax charges in a separate trial set to begin Sept. 5.

His felony gun trial took place in Delaware because in 2018 he purchased the revolver and ammunition from a gun shop in Wilmington.

– Rachel Barber

Who is Hunter Biden? 

Hunter Biden is President Joe Biden's youngest son. He's faced three firearms felonies in Delaware.

The first two relate specifically to the form he filled out to purchase a gun in 2018, accusing Biden of lying about this drug use on the form. The third charge pertains to Biden's possession of a firearm while he was allegedly an unlawful user or addicted to controlled substances.

– Xerxes Wilson

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hunter Biden trial recap: Joe Biden's son convicted on all charges