Politics

Who testified in Hunter Biden's trial on federal firearms charges

WILMINGTON, Del. — (AP) — Jurors who are weighing whether President Joe Biden's son is guilty of federal firearms charges heard deeply personal testimony about dark moments in Hunter Biden's past.

The case playing out in Wilmington, Delaware, stems from a gun the younger Biden bought in October 2018, months before his father announced his bid for the presidency.

Prosecutors said Hunter Biden lied when he swore he wasn't a drug user on a form he filled out at the gun shop. He had the gun for about 11 days before it was thrown in a trash can.

Hunter Biden’s attorney argued his client did not believe he was in the throes of addiction when he stated in the paperwork that he did not have a drug problem.

Hunter Biden was supposed to have avoided prosecution in the gun case altogether, but a deal with prosecutors fell apart last year. He was subsequently indicted on three felony gun charges. He also faces a trial scheduled for September on felony charges alleging he failed to pay at least $1.4 million in taxes over four years.

Here's a look at some key witnesses in the trial:

KATHLEEN BUHLE

One of the prosecutors' first witnesses was Hunter Biden's ex-wife, who filed for divorce in 2016 after more than 20 years of marriage. They have three children together. In divorce proceedings, she accused him of squandering their money on drugs, alcohol, strip clubs and prostitutes.

On the witness stand, Buhle described learning about Hunter Biden's drug use when she found a pipe used to smoke crack cocaine in an ashtray on their porch in July 2015, weeks after Hunter's brother Beau died from brain cancer.

When she confronted Hunter, he "acknowledged smoking crack,” she told jurors.

Buhle testified that she suspected that Hunter was using drugs even before she found the crack pipe, given that he earlier had been kicked out of the Navy after testing positive for cocaine.

“I was definitely worried, scared,” said Buhle, who was subpoenaed by prosecutors.

She also recounted searching the family's car for drugs whenever her children were driving it. But she acknowledged under questioning from Hunter's attorney that she never actually saw him using drugs.

HALLIE BIDEN

Another key witness for prosecutors was Beau's widow, who had a romantic relationship with Hunter Biden after his brother's death.

Hallie Biden testified last Thursday about the moment she searched Hunter Biden's truck and found the revolver at the center of his criminal case.

She described how she put the gun into a leather pouch, stuffed it into a shopping bag and tossed it in a trash can outside a market near her home. She considered hiding the gun but thought her kids might find it, so she decided to throw it away.

“I realize it was a stupid idea now, but I was panicking,” she told jurors.

When their relationship became public in 2017, Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, said in a statement that the couple had their “full and complete support,” adding, “We are all lucky that Hunter and Hallie found each other as they were putting their lives together again after such sadness."

Hunter detailed their troubled romance in his memoir “Beautiful Things,” writing, “As much as we desperately thought we could be the answers to each other's pain, we only caused each other more.”

Jurors saw text messages between the pair that prosecutors used to try to prove that Hunter Biden knew he was addicted to drugs when he said on the form he wasn't.

In one late-night exchange shortly after he bought the gun, Hallie asked Hunter where he was. Hunter replied he was behind a baseball stadium in downtown Wilmington “waiting for a dealer.”

ZOE KESTAN

Kestan, another former romantic partner, described meeting Hunter in December 2017 at a strip club in New York where she was working. During a private session with her and another girl, he pulled out a pipe and began smoking what she assumed was crack, she testified.

“He was incredibly charming and charismatic and friendly, and I felt really safe around him,” she said. “I remember after he had smoked it, nothing had changed. He was the same charming person.”

The two met up again a couple of weeks later in New York. She recounted staying at his hotel for five days, a period in which she says Hunter Biden smoked crack perhaps every 20 minutes. At one point during their stay together, he asked her to go meet his drug dealer and bring him up to the room, she told jurors.

But Kestan acknowledged she had no contact with Hunter Biden in October 2018, the month he bought the gun.

NAOMI BIDEN

Hunter Biden's daughter Naomi testified for the defense on Friday that her father seemed to be improving in the weeks before he bought the revolver in 2018. Naomi Biden told prosecutor Leo Wise that she was aware of her father's drug use when she went to visit him in California in August 2018.

“I knew that he was struggling with addiction,” she said.

Naomi said she couldn’t recall when she first became aware of her father’s drug use, but that it was sometime after her uncle Beau Biden died in 2015.

In October 2018, the month Hunter Biden bought the gun, Naomi traveled from Washington to New York in her father’s truck to move her boyfriend’s belongings. Hunter drove Joe Biden’s Cadillac to New York later that month to retrieve his truck, leaving the Cadillac with Naomi.

“He seemed great. He seemed hopeful,” she said.

But prosecutors showed Naomi texts where he didn’t respond to her for hours after she messaged him about switching cars. At 2 a.m., Hunter texted Naomi asking where the keys to his truck were and whether her boyfriend could meet and swap vehicles.

“Right now?” she responded.

“Do you know what your father was doing at two o’clock in the morning and why he was asking you for the car then?” prosecutor Leo Wise asked.

“No,” she said.

Wise read out loud to her a text message from the time, where she responded: “I’m really sorry dad I can’t take this.”

As she was dismissed from the stand, she paused to hug her dad before leaving the courtroom.

GORDON CLEVELAND

Cleveland sold Hunter Biden the .38 caliber revolver at a Wilmington gun shop in 2018.

Testifying for prosecutors, the former gun store clerk told jurors he stood next to Hunter Biden when he began to answer a series of questions on the federal form every person has to fill out when they buy a gun. Hunter checked a box saying he was purchasing the gun for himself, Cleveland said.

Another question asked whether the buyer was “an unlawful user of or addicted to” marijuana, stimulants, narcotics or any other controlled substance. Hunter Biden wrote “no," Cleveland said.

He also testified that Hunter did not ask any questions or express any confusion about the question. Hunter Biden paid $900 in cash, telling Cleveland to keep the change — about $13.

Cleveland told jurors he watched Hunter sign the form, which includes a warning about the consequences of submitting false information.

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Richer reported from Washington.

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