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Jury is chosen in Hunter Biden’s federal firearms case and opening statements are set for Tuesday

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — A jury sat Monday in the federal gun case against Hunter, President Joe Biden’s sonafter potential panelists were asked about their thoughts on gun rights and drug addiction, while the first lady looked on from the front row of the courtroom.

Opening statements were set to begin Tuesday after the jurors — six men and six women plus four women serving as alternates — were instructed by Judge Maryellen Noreika not to speak or read about the case.

Hunter Biden was charged in Delaware with three felonies stemming from a 2018 firearm purchase while he was, according to his memoir, in the grip of a crack addiction. He was charged with lying to a federally licensed gun dealer, making a false statement on the application that he was not a drug user, and illegally possessing the weapon for 11 days.

The case goes to trial following the failure of a plea deal that would have avoided the spectacle of a trial so close to the 2024 election. Hunter Biden has pleaded not guilty and claimed he was unfairly targeted by the Justice Department, after Republicans decried the now-defunct plea deal as special treatment for the Democratic president’s son.

The debates come just days after Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for the 2024 presidential election, was nominated. convicted of 34 crimes At New York. A jury found the former president guilty of a scheme to conceal a hush money payment to a pornographic actor to ward off damage to his 2016 presidential campaign. The two criminal cases are unrelated, but their proximity highlights the extent to which the courts took center stage during the 2024 campaign.

Jury selection moved in the blink of an eye. The pool was chosen from around 65 people. Those who answered “yes” to an initial questionnaire were interviewed individually by Noreika to determine whether they could be fair and impartial. Their names have not been made public.

The questions tested their knowledge of the case, inquired into their thoughts on gun ownership and asked whether they or anyone close to them had struggled with substance abuse or addiction. Other questions centered on what role politics might have played in the accusations.

A potential juror who was sent home said she didn’t know if she could be impartial because of the opinion she formed about Hunter Biden based on media reports.

“That’s not a good answer,” she replied when asked for her opinion by a lawyer.

Another was excused because he was aware of the case and said: “It appears politics plays a large role in determining who gets charged with what and when.” »

The jurors chosen included a woman whose sister was convicted about 10 years ago of credit card and drug fraud in Delaware. One juror’s father was killed in a gun crime and his brother was jailed for drug possession. Another woman on the panel has a husband who is a gun owner and former member of law enforcement. A third juror, also a woman, gets her news on YouTube and says she has vague knowledge of the case.

Hunter Biden will also face a separate trial in California in September for non-payment of $1.4 million in taxes. Both cases should have been resolved thanks to the agreement with prosecutors last July, the culmination of a years-long investigation into his business dealings.

But Noreika, who was appointed to the bench by Trump, questioned some unusual aspects of the deal, which included a proposed guilty plea for minor offenses to resolve tax crimes and a diversion agreement on the gun charge, which meant as long as he stayed. in difficulty for two years, the case would be closed. The lawyers failed to find a solution and the deal collapsed. Attorney General Merrick Garland then named the lead investigator, former Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss, as special counsel in August, and a month later Hunter Biden was indicted.

This trial is not about Hunter Biden’s foreign affairs – which Republicans took hold of without evidence to attempt to portray the Biden family as corrupt. But it will uncover and expose some of Hunter Biden’s darkest moments.

The president’s allies are worried the toll that the trial could take on the elder Bidenwho has long worried about her only living son and his sobriety and now must watch her son’s painful past mistakes be publicly scrutinized.

Allies also fear the trial could become a distraction as the president attempts to campaign amid anemic polling and prepares to an upcoming presidential debate with Trump.

In a statement Monday, the president said he had “boundless love” for his son, “confidence in him and respect for his strength.”

“I am the president, but I am also a father,” he said, adding that he would make no further comment on the matter. “Jill and I love our son and are very proud of the man he is today.”

The president was nearby at their Wilmington home, which he left shortly after the court adjourned for a campaign reception in Greenwich, Connecticut. He goes to France on Tuesday and will be away the rest of the week. The first lady is expected to join him later. Hunter Biden’s sister, Ashley Biden, was also in court, as was his wife, Melissa.

On Monday evening, aboard Air Force One en route to Connecticut, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked whether the affair could affect the president’s ability to do his job and she replied: “Absolutely not.”

“He always puts the American people first and is able to do his job,” said Jean-Pierre, who declined to say whether Biden received updates on the trial throughout the day or whether he had spoken to his son after the conclusion of the procedure.

Earlier, as the court took a lunch break, Hunter Biden walked over to his mother and leaned over the railing that separates the audience from trial participants to hug her and kiss on the cheek. Monday was the first lady’s 73rd birthday.

A family friend, Ricky Smith, sat in the audience and warmly hugged him during a break.

“It’s not right that he’s sitting there because he was a drug addict,” Smith said.

The case against Hunter Biden dates back to a period when, by his own public admission, he was addicted to crack cocaine. His descent into drugs and alcohol followed the death of his brother in 2015, Beau Biden, from cancer. He purchased and possessed a firearm for 11 days in October 2018 and indicated on the gun purchase form that he did not use drugs.

Defense attorneys suggested they could argue that Hunter Biden didn’t consider himself a drug addict when prosecutors say he checked “no” to the question on the form. They will also attack the credibility of the gun store owner.

If convicted, Hunter Biden faces up to 25 years in prison, although first-time offenders do not reach the maximum, and it is unclear whether the judge would give him time behind bars.

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Long reported in Washington. Associated Press writers Alanna Durkin Richer in Washington and Fatima Hussein aboard Air Force One contributed to this report.

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Follow AP’s coverage of Hunter Biden at https://apnews.com/hub/hunter-biden.

News Source : apnews.com
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