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Closing Arguments in Hunter Biden Gun Case Contrast Between Facts and Emotion

AP Photo/Matt Slocum

"No one is above the law". That was the message federal prosecutors sought to hammer home in the minds of the jurors who will decide whether Hunter Biden should be convicted for buying a gun when he was allegedly using and abusing drugs. During closing arguments on Monday afternoon, prosecutors didn't shy away from acknowledging the high-profile nature of the case, or the fact that Biden is facing trial in what amounts to his father's own political fiefdom. Instead, they leaned into the fact that First Lady Jill Biden and other members of the Biden clan have been making regular appearances in the courtroom.

Leo Wise is delivering the closing for the prosecution. 

“All of this is not evidence,” Wise said while gesturing around the courtroom. “People sitting in the gallery are not evidence.” 

You may recognize them from the news or from the community, “but respectfully, none of that matters,” Wise said. 

All that matters is the evidence that was introduced during the trial, he said. “No one is above the law,” he added.

And the evidence, added Wise, is overwhelming against the defendant. In fact, Wise said that the testimony of Biden's ex-girlfriend Zoe Kestan alone would be enough to convict him, since she testified he was actively using drugs in California in late September; just a couple of weeks before he purchased a revolver from a Wilmington gun store. 

But Wise also used Biden's own memoir and text messages to paint a picture of a man who was pretty clearly using and abusing drugs in the weeks before and after the gun was purchased. 

Prosecutor Leo Wise brought up a calendar his team made, trying to show that there was virtually no time in the lead-up to the gun purchase when Hunter Biden wasn’t texting about drugs.

Wise referred to a calendar of both July 2018 and October 2018 to try to make the point that the number of drug-related messages, and, therefore, apparent drug use, wasn’t all that different in those months.

“This idea that there was heavy drug use and that correlates with many messages” in July “and that doesn’t exist in October” isn’t borne out by the evidence, he said.

Wise then put up a very visually busy calendar, which was color-coded by “drug messages,” “addiction messages,” “drug paraphernalia” and “cash withdrawals.” Nearly every day of October 2018 was colored in some way.

Wise was also able to remind jurors that Biden's daughter Naomi testified that Biden's truck was "clean" when she dropped it off at his Delaware home a few days before the gun was discovered by Hallie Biden, who testified to finding drug paraphernalia and remnants of crack cocaine in the vehicle along with the revolver.  

While Wise relied heavily on the facts, defense attorney Abbe Lowell tried instead to tug on the jurors heartstrings, while arguing the prosecution had failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Hunter Biden's lawyer Abbe Lowell began the closing argument for the defense by taking issue with the prosecution beginning closing arguments with a reference to his client's mother, his sister and his other relatives sitting in court (specifically, prosecutor Leo Wise told the jury, “People sitting in the gallery are not evidence”). 

Lowell moved instead to outline what the prosecution needs to accomplish this case, namely clearing the burden of proof that “stays with the government throughout trial,” and eliminating any reasonable doubt, displaying the definitions for burden of proof and reasonable doubt as he did so.

Lowell contends that Biden's memoir wasn't a contemporaneous diary, and even if Hunter admitted his addiction in 2021 that doesn't mean he considered himself an addict when he bought the revolver and attested he was not an unlawful user of drugs or addicted to any narcotics on the Form 4473. 

The problem for Lowell is that Biden had entered (and left) a rehab facility in California just a few weeks before he bought the gun, and would enter another facility not long afterward. Generally speaking, people don't seek help for a drug or alcohol problem unless and until they realize their use is a problem. It's a reach to believe Hunter Biden realized he needed help both before and after he purchased the revolver, but he thought he was fine on the day the purchase was made, but that's essentially the theory at the heart of Lowell's defense. 

But Lowell has also suggested that these crimes, if any were actually committed, were long in the past, and it would be unjust to convict Biden for something he did back then when he's since turned his life around. In that sense, he is asking the jury to place Biden above the law... or at least absolve him of any consequences for breaking it. 

Almost every conservative friend of mine that I've spoken with believes that Biden will be acquitted in short order by the jury; the fix is in, and a two-tiered standard of justice will soon be on display. I'm not entirely convinced that will be the case here. The prosecution's evidence was incredibly strong. They didn't have surveillance images of Biden smoking crack the day the gun was purchased, but they had a text message about him waiting on a "dealer named Mookie" the day after he took possession of the revolver, as well as a message one day letter telling Hallie Biden he was "sleeping on a car" smoking crack.

On the other hand, the trial is taking place in perhaps the friendliest environment possible for Hunter Biden, and there's a chance that one or more jurors will prove unwilling to convict the president's son because of his position. There's also the possibility that at least one juror will decide the federal statute Biden's been charged with violating is unconstitutional, or that they'll buy into Lowell's argument that the punishment doesn't fit the alleged crime. It only takes one juror for a mistrial, so Lowell doesn't have to convince all twelve jurors to acquit. If he's able to persuade at least one of them to refuse to convict, his client still walks out of the courtroom a free man, and that's a win as far as Team Biden is concerned.