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Hunter Biden declines to take the stand

Hunter Biden’s legal team rested its case in his felony gun trial on Monday without the first son taking the stand in his own defense.

Hunter’s lawyer Abbe Lowell on Friday left open the possibility of Hunter testifying, but ultimately opted against the high-risk maneuver. Lowell declined to call any witnesses on Monday after two gun-store employees and Hunter’s daughter Naomi testified on his behalf on Friday.

Hunter’s uncle and business partner James Biden was also expected to testify on Friday but never took the stand after Naomi’s testimony went off the rails for the defense. James Biden, who along with Hunter conducted lucrative business dealings with Chinese conglomerate CEFC, was present in the courtroom on Monday. House Republicans have accused Hunter and James of lying to congress about their overseas dealings and have referred them to the Department of Justice for prosecution. 

Special counsel David Weiss and his team of prosecutors are pursuing three federal gun charges against Hunter, two for allegedly lying about his drug addiction on a federal gun-purchase background-check form, and a third for allegedly possessing the firearm while addicted to crack cocaine. Hunter pleaded not guilty to the charges last year and faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison, though he will likely face a lighter sentence as a first-time, non-violent offender.

Prosecutors have insisted throughout the trial that Hunter was an active crack-cocaine addict when he claimed otherwise on the background-check form, citing “overwhelming” evidence in the form of text messages, images, and videos taken from the first son’s abandoned laptop. The prosecution has also relied on Hunter’s own account of his struggles with addiction, laid out in his recent memoir.

Hunter had the Colt Cobra revolver in his possession for eleven days after purchasing it at StarQuest Shooters & Survival Supply in Wilmington in October 2018. The gun was eventually found by his ex-girlfriend and sister-in-law Hallie Biden, who threw it into a trash can at a nearby grocery store to ensure that Hunter couldn’t use it to harm himself. Hallie testified that she also found crack-cocaine remnants in Hunter’s car when she found the firearm.

Hallie was joined by two other women with whom Hunter had been romantically involved, both of whom testified that he was using crack cocaine around the time of the gun purchase — after becoming addicted to it years earlier. 

Federal prosecutors also utilized testimony from three expert witnesses, an FBI special agent, FBI chemist, and a Drug Enforcement Administration agent. 

Prosecutor Derek Hines and FBI agent Erica Jensen went through a trove of Biden’s texts, photos, videos, bank records, and memoir excerpts to establish the defendant’s pattern of behavior and prolific crack-cocaine usage. The FBI chemist briefly took the stand to explain how the pouch that Hunter’s gun was found in had tested positive for cocaine.

Some of the prosecution’s exhibits were later analyzed by the DEA agent to confirm the drugs, drug paraphernalia, and coded language were all connected to Biden’s crack-cocaine habit.

In her Friday testimony, Hunter’s daughter Naomi claimed that her father was “the clearest” she had seen him in years when they spent time together in Los Angeles in August 2018, one month before the gun purchase. However, under cross examination, Naomi’s testimony fell apart when prosecutor Leo Wise introduced text messages between her and her father sent in the days immediately following the gun purchase, in which Hunter is unresponsive to her appeals to meet up, responding only at odd hours with bizarre requests.

Before Naomi, gun salesman Jason Turner and gun-store owner Ron Palimere briefly testified. Turner completed Biden’s background check and filled in parts of the gun paperwork designated for the seller, although Turner never interacted with Hunter. Palimere only recalled giving gun salesman Gordon Cleveland permission to use Hunter’s passport as a valid form of ID for the gun sale, corroborating a detail from Cleveland’s testimony.

A part-time salesman and full-time garbage-truck driver, Cleveland said Hunter indicated that he wanted to purchase a firearm when he walked into the store, and emphasized how Hunter ultimately picked out everything he bought, pushing back on Lowell’s claims that he had pressured Hunter into the purchase.

Now that the defense has rested, closing arguments will take place before the trial goes to the jury.

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