Hunter Biden trial: Key takeaways from opening statements as 1st witness is called in felony gun case

President Biden’s 54-year-old son is accused of lying about his drug addiction on an application he used to purchase a firearm in 2018.

Hunter Biden
Hunter Biden arriving at federal court in Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday for his felony gun trial. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Opening statements in Hunter Biden’s federal gun trial concluded Tuesday in Wilmington, Del., where President Biden’s 54-year-old son is facing three felony charges over whether he lied about his addiction to crack while applying to purchase a firearm six years ago. He has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors allege that Hunter Biden falsely claimed he was not a drug user on the application and illegally possessed the handgun for 11 days. He faces up to 25 years in prison and $750,000 in fines if found guilty of all three charges.

Jury selection concluded Monday with 12 jurors and four alternates seated after being quizzed about their relationships with people struggling with addiction.

Hunter Biden’s trial comes just days after former President Donald Trump was found guilty on 34 charges of falsifying business records to cover up a hush money payment to a porn star whose alleged affair with him threatened to torpedo his 2016 election campaign.

Here’s what happened in court on Tuesday.

Joe Biden and Hunter Biden step off Air Force One in Syracuse last year.
Joe Biden and Hunter Biden step off Air Force One in Syracuse, N.Y., Feb. 4, 2023. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

In his opening statement, prosecutor Derek Hines told the jury that Hunter Biden is on trial because he lied about his drug use while applying to buy a gun — not because he was a drug addict and certainly not because he is the president’s son.

“We’re here because of the defendant’s lies and choices,” Hines said. "Nobody is allowed to lie, not even Hunter Biden.

“Addiction may not be a choice, but lying and buying a gun is a choice,” Hines added. “We would not be here today if he was just a drug addict.”

The jury was shown a photo of Hunter Biden’s Colt revolver as well as the “hollow-point” ammunition that he bought in 2018. In court filings, Hunter Biden's lawyers said that he never used or loaded the gun during the 11 days he had it before his then-girlfriend Hailie Biden threw it away.

The jury then heard portions of an audiobook Hunter Biden recorded for his 2021 memoir, “Beautiful Things,” in which he described his addiction to crack.

Hunter Biden and his wife, Melissa Cohen Biden
Hunter Biden and his wife, Melissa Cohen Biden. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

In his opening statement, defense attorney Abbe Lowell argued that Hunter Biden did not knowingly violate the law when he omitted his drug use on the firearm application.

Lowell told the jury that Biden took the gun out of a locked box only once in the 11 days between the time he bought it and when his girlfriend tossed it in a trash can.

Hunter Biden later told police that he purchased the gun for target practice but hadn’t shot it yet.

“The gun was never loaded. It was never carried around,” Lowell said.

Lowell also said that Hunter Biden struggled with addiction “like literally millions of people in this country.”

Security personnel stand outside the federal courthouse in Wilmington before the start of the Hunter Biden felony gun trial.
Security personnel stand outside the federal courthouse in Wilmington, Del., before the start of Hunter Biden's felony gun trial. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Following opening statements, prosecutors called their first witness: Erika Jensen, an FBI special agent who testified about what she knows about the timeline of Hunter Biden’s drug abuse from 2015 to 2019.

While Jensen was on the stand, prosecutors played more audio excerpts from Hunter Biden’s memoir in which he described his four-year addiction to crack cocaine. They also showed video footage of Hunter Biden holding what appeared to be a crack pipe.

The prosecution alleges Hunter Biden was aware that he was an addict when he said the opposite in his federal gun application in 2018.

Under cross-examination by the defense, Jensen conceded that Hunter Biden may not have been abusing drugs throughout the four-year window about which she was testifying.

“I didn’t get the sense it was the entire period,” Jensen said.

She is expected to return to the witness stand when court resumes on Wednesday.

Hunter Biden departs federal court in Wilmington in a car.
Hunter Biden departs federal court in Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday. (Matt Rourke/AP)

One juror was dismissed prior to opening arguments Tuesday after she sent an email overnight explaining that she lives an hour away and is unemployed.

“So, we lost a juror,” Judge Maryellen Noreika announced as she entered court.

According to Noreika, the juror did not realize she would be expected to be at the courthouse every day.

Another juror was about an hour late to court, delaying Tuesday’s opening statements.

First lady Jill Biden departs federal court in Delaware.
First lady Jill Biden departs federal court in Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday. (Matt Slocum/AP)

First lady Jill Biden, Hunter Biden’s wife, Melissa Cohen Biden, and sister, Ashley Biden, were in court to support him.

Jill Biden left Tuesday's proceedings early to travel back to Washington, D.C., where she was due to attend the White House's annual congressional picnic.

President Biden is not planning to attend the trial but did release a rare statement on Monday about the case.

“I am the President, but I am also a Dad,” Biden said. “Jill and I love our son, and we are so proud of the man he is today.”