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Hunter Biden found guilty on federal gun charges

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

To Delaware, where a federal jury has convicted Hunter Biden of felony gun charges. The verdict against the president's son was handed down after just under three hours of deliberations. NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas was in the courtroom in Wilmington every day for this trial, and he is in the studio now. Hey, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Hi there.

SHAPIRO: You were in the courtroom this morning when the verdict was announced. How did it play out?

LUCAS: Well, this case was submitted to the jury late yesterday afternoon, and the jurors only had about an hour yesterday to deliberate before they broke for the evening. They got back at it a little after 9 this morning, and around 11, word reached me and the other journalists who were waiting in the empty courtroom that a verdict had been reached. A few minutes later, the jury filed in.

The verdict was read out by the judge's deputy - guilty on all counts, two counts of lying about his drug use when he bought a gun in 2018 and one count of illegal possession of a firearm by a drug addict or user. Hunter Biden didn't show any emotion as the verdict was read aloud. He stared straight ahead in the courtroom. Afterwards, though, he hugged his attorneys. He kissed and hugged his wife, Melissa Cohen Biden, and then they filed out of the courtroom together.

SHAPIRO: Did Hunter Biden say anything to reporters before he left?

LUCAS: He didn't talk to reporters before leaving the courthouse, no, but he did put out a statement later. And he said that he's disappointed in the outcome of this trial, but he said that he's grateful for the love and the support that he received during it from his friends and family.

And I have to say, his family and friends did show up every day of this trial. They often filled the first two rows in the courtroom behind the defense table. First lady Jill Biden and Hunter's sister, Ashley Biden, were both there several days. His aunts and uncles also showed up, including President Biden's brother, James Biden. And they sat there, and they listened to what was, at times, very messy, very ugly testimony and evidence of Hunter's addiction to crack cocaine as well as the toll that it took on the Biden family.

SHAPIRO: What about the most prominent Biden, the president? He said last week that he would not pardon Hunter if he was convicted. Now Hunter's been convicted. So what did Joe Biden, the president, have to say today?

LUCAS: Well, the president put out a statement after this verdict was announced, and he said, yes, he's the president, but he's also a dad. And he said he's proud of the man that Hunter is today. He also repeated something that he said before - that a lot of families in this country have loved ones who struggle with addiction, and he said they understand the pride that you feel when you see someone who you love shake their addiction and come out on the other side.

Now, on the legal side of things, the president said he will accept the outcome of this trial. He will respect the judicial process as Hunter considers an appeal. I'll add that after this verdict was announced, the president traveled this afternoon to Wilmington. This was not a previously planned trip. He flew to the Delaware Air National Guard base, where he was greeted on the tarmac by Hunter, by Hunter's wife and Hunter's son. The president spoke with them for several minutes, and he gave Hunter a big hug.

SHAPIRO: Is Hunter expected to appeal the decision?

LUCAS: There's no final word on that at this point. I will say, though, he challenged this case on several grounds before trial. Today, his attorney, Abbe Lowell, said they are disappointed with the verdict, but they respect the jury process and that they will continue to pursue all legal challenges available.

SHAPIRO: What about special counsel David Weiss, who brought the case? Did he say anything about the verdict?

LUCAS: Weiss delivered a brief statement before the cameras. He thanked the prosecutors who worked this case. He also defended this prosecution. He said it wasn't about Hunter's addiction to crack cocaine, which, I will say, Hunter has spoken publicly about for years, including in his own memoir. Weiss said this case was about the illegal choices that Hunter made when he was addicted to crack, about Hunter's choice to lie about his drug use when he was buying this gun and also his choice to illegally possess the handgun while he was addicted. And Weiss said everyone must be accountable for their actions, even Hunter Biden.

Now, this is not the end of Hunter Biden's legal troubles. Remember, Weiss has brought another case against Hunter in California. That is on tax charges, and that case is scheduled to go to trial in September.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Ryan Lucas, thank you.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Ryan Lucas
Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.