Hunter Biden

Will Hunter Biden go to prison? What's next after his federal gun charges conviction

Hunter Biden was convicted of lying on a mandatory gun purchase form by saying he was not illegally using or addicted to drugs

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Hunter Biden's legal woes are not over after his conviction on three felony firearms charges in a trial that put a spotlight on his drug-fueled past.

Now, President Joe Biden's son faces sentencing, and another criminal trial on tax charges in the middle of his father's reelection campaign.

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Jurors found Hunter Biden guilty on Tuesday after just three hours of deliberations over two days in the federal court in Wilmington, Delaware. The case stemmed from a gun Hunter Biden bought in 2018 while, as prosecutors say, he was in the throes of a crack cocaine addiction.

Here's a look at what's next for Hunter Biden:

Sentencing

He was convicted of lying on a mandatory gun purchase form by saying he was not illegally using or addicted to drugs.

The three counts carry up to 25 years in prison. But whether the president's son actually serves any time behind bars will be up to U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika. The judge, who was nominated to the bench by former Republican president Donald Trump, didn't immediately set a date for sentencing.

In the federal system, first-time offenders don't get anywhere near the maximum sentence. Federal sentencing guidelines — which judges use as they weigh punishments for defendants — are expected to recommend a far lighter punishment. And judges aren't bound by the guidelines, so she could decide not to send him to prison at all. Other options include probation or home detention.

In pressing the judge not to put him behind bars, defense lawyers will likely note that, unlike many illegal firearm possession cases, Hunter Biden's gun was not used in a crime. Hunter Biden never even fired the gun, which he had for 11 days before it got thrown in the trash, his lawyers have said.

The defense will also likely emphasize that Hunter Biden has since turned his life around. He has said he has been sober since 2019. Also, there have been no reported violations of his conditions of release, including that he continues to abstain from drugs and alcohol and participate in a recovery program.

Appeal likely

Defense attorney Abbe Lowell said in a written statement Tuesday that they will “continue to vigorously pursue all the legal challenges available.” It's unclear on what grounds Hunter Biden will appeal the verdict, but he mounted multiple unsuccessful challenges to the case ahead of trial.

Among other things, Hunter Biden's lawyers have challenged the constitutionality of the gun law at the center of the case in the wake of a landmark Supreme Court decision that has upended firearm laws across the country.

Hunter Biden's lawyers have also argued the president's son was prosecuted for political purposes. Lowell has claimed prosecutors bowed to political pressure after a plea agreement hit the skids in court and was publicly pilloried by Republicans, including Trump, as a “sweetheart deal.”

President Joe Biden met his son Hunter Biden at an airport in Wilmington, Delaware, on Tuesday, hours after Hunter Biden was convicted on three felony firearms charges.

Under that deal last year, Hunter Biden would have pleaded guilty to misdemeanor tax offenses and avoided prosecution in the gun case if he stayed out of trouble. Prosecutors were planning to recommend two years of probation. But the deal fell apart after the judge raised concerns about it.

On Friday, defense lawyers urged the judge to acquit Hunter Biden of the charges, arguing prosecutors had not met their burden of proof. Noreika did not rule on the motion before the jury reached its verdict.

Other legal problems

Hunter Biden's trial on tax charges in California is scheduled to begin September 5. He was initially slated to go to trial in that case later this month, but the judge recently granted a defense request to delay.

He's charged in the California case with nine felony and misdemeanor tax offenses. The charges stem from what federal prosecutors say was a four-year scheme to skip out on paying the $1.4 million he owed to the IRS. Prosecutors allege he instead used the money to fund an extravagant lifestyle which, by his own admission, included drugs and alcohol. The president’s son has since repaid the back taxes.

Hunter Biden's lawyer said at a recent hearing that he was struggling to line up expert witnesses willing to testify in the high-profile case in Los Angeles. Prosecutors said they are planning to call roughly 30 witnesses.

Republicans have also signaled they will keep going after Hunter Biden after their impeachment inquiry into the president stalled.

Last week, House Republicans issued criminal referrals against Hunter Biden and the president's brother, James, accusing them of making false statements to Congress as part of the GOP’s yearlong impeachment inquiry. The president has not been accused or charged with any wrongdoing by prosecutors investigating his son.

Hunter Biden’s attorney said in a statement last week that the referrals are “nothing more than a desperate attempt by Republicans to twist Hunter’s testimony so they can distract from their failed impeachment inquiry" and interfere with his criminal trial.

A presidential pardon?

President Biden said Tuesday that he would accept the verdict and “continue to respect the judicial process as Hunter considers an appeal.” The president has said in recent interviews he would not pardon his son.

The president's response to the verdict stands in stark contrast to Trump, who blasted the justice system as “rigged” after his conviction on 34 felony counts in New York. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee was convicted of a scheme to illegally influence the 2016 election through a hush money payment to a porn actor who said the two had sex. Trump denied any wrongdoing and has cast himself as the victim of a politically motivated justice system working to deny him another term.

While in the White House, Trump used his pardon power to benefit a broad array of allies, Republican supporters in Congress convicted of crimes and others whose causes were championed by friends.

The beneficiaries included four associates convicted in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian election interference investigation, but notably excluded two others — former campaign aide Rick Gates and former personal lawyer Michael Cohen — who cooperated with prosecutors as part of that probe.

In a statement Tuesday, Trump’s campaign called Hunter Biden's verdict “nothing more than a distraction from the real crimes of the Biden Crime Family.” Trump and his allies have long pressed forward unsubstantiated or debunked allegations that Joe Biden — while serving as vice president — acted to advance his family members’ foreign business interests.

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Richer reported from Washington. Associated Press reporters Eric Tucker and Colleen Long in Washington contributed.

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