Will Hunter Take the Stand In His Defense?

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

After calling just two witnesses on Friday, Hunter Biden's legal team has apparently almost wrapped up its defense. After prosecutors finished their cross-examination of Biden's daughter Naomi early Friday afternoon the jury was dismissed for the weekend, and NBC News reports there may not be any more witnesses called when the trial resumes on Monday. 

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Biden's attorney Abbe Lowell had suggested that Joe Biden's brother James would testify on Hunter's behalf at some point, but that no longer looks to be the case. Now Biden's attorneys, along with the defendant himself, will huddle over the weekend and decide if Hunter will take the stand in his own defense next week. 

Hunter Biden's defense team is not going to call James Biden or any experts after all.

His legal team is going to make a decision on the “last witness” over the weekend. The last potential witness they're deciding over is believed to be Hunter Biden himself.

The prosecution is going to decide on whether they put on a rebuttal case, after they find out about the defense’s remaining witness.

I'd be surprised if Biden does end up testifying on his own behalf. No matter how sympathetically Lowell will portray Biden, allowing him to be questioned under oath by prosecutors isn't likely to work in his favor. 

Hunter would have to deny that he was actively using drugs in early October, 2018, but he'd also have to come with a reason why he said in his memoir that he was only "clean" for two weeks after leaving a California rehab in September of that year, or why he said in Beautiful Things that he was planning on "getting clean" when he returned to the East Coast if he was clean and sober when he left California and returned to Delaware. In the same memoir, Biden also discussed smoking crack "every fifteen minutes" during the time period in question, which jibes with the testimony of his former girlfriend Zoe Kestan, who testified to Biden's "near-ceaseless crack use" (to quote NBC News) throughout much of 2018; both before and after the gun was purchased. 

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Biden would also be grilled about why he believed he wasn't addicted to cocaine when he filled out the Form 4473 that was used for his background check when purchasing the revolver in question. Hallie Biden testified on Thursday that Biden would at times say he didn't have a drug problem, but would also "admit to his addiction" at other points during their relationship. 

I'm not sure that there's a good answer available to Biden, quite honestly. If he sticks with Lowell's assertion that he truly didn't believe he was an addict, that's going to open him up to answering an extensive string of questions about his drug abuse and the lies that he repeatedly told his family and friends. That could easily make him an untrustworthy witness for jurors. 

I think there's more far more risk than reward for Biden taking the stand in his own defense, but if Lowell and Biden believe that the jury is leaning towards a conviction they may decide they have no other choice. 

The prosecution did not present any direct evidence that Biden was actively using drugs the day he bought the firearm, but there's still plenty of circumstantial evidence pointing to his drug use during the time period when the gun was purchased; much of it coming from Biden directly in the form of his memoir and text messages sent around the time he bought the revolver. 

In one message to Hallie Biden the day after the gun was purchased, he said he was waiting for "a dealer" named Mookie. The following day he sent her another message telling her he was "on a car smoking crack". Lowell has suggested that Biden was simply lying to avoid seeing Hallie Biden, but prosecutors would have a field day questioning Biden about what he was doing on those days and why he told his then-girlfriend he was doing drugs if he was, in fact, sober. 

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At this point, I think Biden's better off keeping his mouth shut and staying off the stand. The prosecution's case is pretty strong, and it's hard to see how his testimony could weaken it. My guess is the two sides will move to closing arguments when the trial resumes on Monday... unless U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika throws everyone a curveball by granting Lowell's request for the charges to be dismissed on Second Amendment grounds. 


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