ChrisWeigant.com

Hunter's Jury Is Out

[ Posted Monday, June 10th, 2024 – 14:36 UTC ]

As I write this, the jury is now officially out on Hunter Biden. The jurors in the case against the president's son have heard all the evidence and have now retired to begin their deliberations. Although not as historical as Donald Trump being tried and found guilty of felonies, this is at least a historical footnote: the first member of an American president's close family to go on trial while his dad is still in office.

After following the trial fairly closely (even while on vacation), I have to say things don't look especially good for Hunter. All the prosecution had to prove was that Hunter was using illegal drugs when he tried to buy a gun, lied about this use on the federal forms, and then possessed the gun while he was still using illegal drugs. That is not very complex a case to make, which is why the trial didn't take all that long.

Hunter's defense is that the prosecution cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hunter was using drugs during the extremely short period when he bought and owned the handgun. This period was less than two weeks long, and Biden's lawyers argued that Hunter had recently gone through rehab and could conceivably still have been clean during this whole period, despite his own admission that he was addicted to crack cocaine both before and after this period.

That seems somewhat farfetched, to anyone who has ever seen what drug addiction can do to people. But under our judicial system, Hunter's side doesn't have to prove that this is true, they just have to introduce enough doubt that it plausibly could have been true and the jury would be bound not to convict him. That's their theory, at any rate (and their hope).

Personally, it wouldn't surprise me if the jury took a very minimal time to return a verdict of guilty. The possibility of a hung jury or a complete acquittal does exist -- but if I was in Vegas placing a bet, I'd put my money on "guilty" all around.

Assuming for the moment that Hunter Biden is found guilty, what would it all mean both legally and politically? Well, nobody really knows. As mentioned, despite other presidential close kin doing some awfully shady things both while their relative was in the Oval Office and outside that period, this is the very first time a presidential family member has been to court to face such serious charges. So there simply is no precedent.

Legally, Hunter Biden will be facing up to 10 years in prison, if convicted. However, being a first-time offender (who has since cleaned up his act and is now drug-free) means he will probably face a much lighter sentence -- one that might or might not include some jail time. President Joe Biden has publicly said (on several occasions now) that he would not even consider pardoning his son if he is convicted. We'll see if this stays true through his very last day in office (whenever that might be), but it doesn't seem likely that the president will intervene with a pardon any time soon no matter what sentence Hunter happens to get. So the son of a president could actually be in jail while people vote on his father's re-election.

Or maybe not. Even if Hunter is convicted and does pull down some sort of incarceration sentence, he (like Trump) will quite likely be out on bail while his appeals work their way through the system. From all reports, Hunter is going to try an avenue of appeal that will shock and anger many liberals, since (if successful) it would only serve to undermine gun laws even further. Hunter has been considering challenging not his conviction per se, but instead the law and the federal background check form itself, on Second Amendment grounds. He will essentially be arguing that there is nothing in the Constitution about preventing drug users from "bearing arms," therefore the federal laws banning such a thing are actually unconstitutional. And with the current makeup of the Supreme Court, you can easily see he's got a shot of winning with this argument.

Politically, if Hunter is found guilty it'll be a minor political headache for his father. If he appeals on Second Amendment grounds, that will increase the intensity of that headache, but not by much. There is no way such an appeal would have worked its way to the Supreme Court by the time the election happens, so it'd be more of a future headache for Joe Biden than a current one.

What is going to be a bigger deal, political-headache-wise, is the fact that Hunter will already have faced another federal trial by the time the election rolls around. In a separate case, he will answer to federal charges about his taxes in California -- with the trial scheduled right before the election. That case will likely be more in the voters' minds than the current one when they vote, for obvious reasons.

But how much is all of this going to matter? Again: nobody knows. Hunter Biden, of course, is not running for any elected office. Joe Biden was not a party to his son buying a gun or failing to pay his taxes on time. There's a "once-removed" quality to it all, in other words. Nobody will be voting for Hunter, so who really cares if he's guilty of federal crimes (not involving Joe) or not?

Well, we shall see. Donald Trump's campaign is already trying to equate the two in voters' minds -- "See? Everyone's corrupt! Don't base your vote on it!" -- but it's a harder case to make now that Trump himself is a convicted felon (while Joe Biden is not, and will not be). A guilty verdict for Hunter would also tend to undermine Trump's case that there is a "two-tiered justice system" (with one harsh tier for Republicans and one lenient tier for Democrats). If the president's own son is convicted of a crime, then how can this be true? But logic isn't a MAGA long suit, shall we say, so it's doubtful it'll cause much head-scratching among Trump's followers (they'll believe both mutually-exclusive things at the same time, as always).

One would hope that seeing President Joe Biden refuse to intervene on the federal cases against his son and refuse to consider a pardon if he is found guilty would be to his benefit in the eyes of voters. This is standing strong for the rule of law in the face of great temptation to use your constitutional power to intervene to save a loved one. That should be what Americans expect (if not demand) in a president, after all. The choice will be between a man who would do that and one who wouldn't think twice about (1) leaning on his attorney general to drop cases against himself and his family and his cronies, or (2) pardoning anyone close to him just because he wanted to. That should be an easy choice, but nobody knows how the public will see it all, as we all sail through these uncharted waters.

-- Chris Weigant

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

10 Comments on “Hunter's Jury Is Out”

  1. [1] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    sometimes the law is fair.

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Chris,

    This period was less than two weeks long, and Biden's lawyers argued that Hunter had recently gone through rehab and could conceivably still have been clean during this whole period, despite his own admission that he was addicted to crack cocaine both before and after this period.

    When did he make that admission? Wasn't it long after the time period in question? Could a jury reasonably conclude that he didn't believe he was an addict when he bought the gun?

    Not that I really care one way or the other how this one turns out, I do care what the impact will be on the 2024 campaign if Hunter is acquitted by way of jury nullification, especially given the outcome of the Trump trial and whatever the former president's punishment will be.

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    ...this is the very first time a presidential family member has been to court to face such serious charges.

    Serious? Seriously!?

    It appears that such a serious case would not have been brought against anyone else. Which is why the tern jury nullification has been bandied about, no?

  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    President Joe Biden has publicly said (on several occasions now) that he would not even consider pardoning his son if he is convicted. We'll see if this stays true through his very last day in office (whenever that might be)...

    There was a time, not so long ago, when I would have publicly stated that Biden's word was as good as gold. Since being elected president, not so much.

  5. [5] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    So what caused you to believe that Joe’s word isn’t golden?

  6. [6] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Guilty on three felony counts after three hours of deliberation.

    As for it’s effect on November I can see millions of voters join me in thinking I’m reconsidering my vote for Hunter Biden ‘24 now that he’s been convicted of three felonies

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I'm still not ready to engage with you, Caddy, on anything but, what I can say about Biden's word these days, especially on the geopolitical front, is that he has become, sadly, all about spin.

  8. [8] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    This is actually a far more interesting case than I had imagined - in terms of the second amendment and the appeals process and whether the case will ultimately be taken up by the Supreme Court.

  9. [9] 
    dsws wrote:

    Meanwhile, there's discussion of a possible deal between the two halves of one side in the Gaza war. I really think we should be trying to empower the other side instead.

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Dan,

    Maybe, once the trials are all over, Chris will write about all of the death and destruction that the US is empowering. It's worth at least a few lines, one might surmise ...

Leave a Reply

[If you have questions as to how to register or log in, to be able to post comments here, or if you'd like advanced commenting and formatting tips, please visit our "Commenting Tips" page, for further details.]

You must be logged in to post a comment.
If you are a new user, please register so you can post comments here.

[The first time you post a comment (after creating your user name and logging in), it will be held for approval. Please be patient (as it may take awhile). After your first comment has been approved, you will be able to post further comments instantly and automatically.]