The conviction of Hunter Biden on all of the federal gun counts created a surprising new precedent in Delaware … for Hunter Biden.

In terms of the law, this was the easiest judgment since the Jussie Smollett verdict. (Actually the Biden jury took a third of the time with a verdict in just three hours.)

For Hunter Biden, though, this was the first time he’s ever been held accountable for any criminal conduct, be it drug use, or prostitution, or tax evasion, or violations of various federal laws.

Hunter Biden leaving court with first lady Jill Biden and his wife Melissa Cohen Biden after being convicted in his federal gun trial on June 11, 2024.
Hunter Biden leaving court with first lady Jill Biden and his wife Melissa Cohen Biden after being convicted in his federal gun trial on June 11, 2024. JIM LO SCALZO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

To have that moment come in the hometown of the Bidens likely only magnified the shock.

Last year, I described the growing legal problems of Hunter Biden as the cost of “legal gluttony.”

The Bidens have always been adept at avoiding accountability, particularly for the extensive influence-peddling operation that raked in millions in foreign payments.

That appetite for special treatment proved the undoing of Hunter, much like his appetite in other areas of his life.

Hunter and his team expected the same level of immunity when he worked with special counsel David Weiss to cut an astonishing deal to avoid any real punishment for these or other crimes.

Even before the deal was cut, Weiss allowed major crimes to expire under the statute of limitations (despite having an agreement to extend that period).

He also agreed to a deal that would have avoided any jail time and would have given Hunter an immunity bath that would have drowned the entire criminal code.

Hunter and his legal team succeeded in securing this sweetheart deal, which shocked many of us.

More importantly, it shocked US District Judge Maryellen Noreika, who only had to question the immunity provision to have the entire agreement fall apart in open court. The prosecutor admitted that he had never seen a plea bargain like this in his long career.

That’s when the legal gluttony became even more pronounced. Rather than fight to preserve key elements of the plea agreement, defense counsel said, “Just rip it up.”

Later, the special counsel said the Hunter defense team would not agree to a compromise agreement and instead forced the matter to trial.

I wrote before the trial that the defense was insane to try the case rather than plead guilty. A plea would have virtually guaranteed that there would be no jail time in the case.

Instead, the defense launched an open jury nullification effort to get the jury to simply ignore the evidence. In the hometown of the Bidens, this was the best jury pool that Hunter could hope for. 

However, the nullification strategy was another manifestation of a gluttonous appetite

Hunter Biden was still demanding a pass in a case where guilt was unavoidably and undeniably obvious to everyone.

Defense counsel Abbe Lowell made a series of defenses that collapsed within the first two days in spectacular fashion.

Lowell suggested that someone else checked the box on the form and that Hunter may have had a brief window of sobriety or non-drug use.

Hunter’s own words played from his audiobook knocked down much of those arguments, and a store employee recounted watching Hunter fill out the form.

In the first interview with a juror, Fox News seemed to confirm that the Biden defense overplayed its hand. The juror raised the text messages showing Hunter trying to score drugs at a 7-Eleven.

Lowell suggested that he might have been at the store buying a donut.

However, the juror noted that Hunter stated in his book that the 7-Eleven was his favorite spot for buying drugs, just as his texts indicated. 

It is an example of how an all-you-can-eat defense can fail to even get a donut from a sympathetic jury. 

The problem now is that this all played out in front of the judge who will now sentence Hunter.

Noreika witnessed the attempt to secure the sweetheart deal and then the disaster in open court.

She watched as a defendant not only refused to admit guilt, but decided to put on an obvious jury nullification defense.

That history could weigh in favor of a short jail stint for Hunter, a risk that would have been effectively eliminated by a guilty plea. 

Hunter will now face an even greater risk in Los Angeles on the more serious counts of tax evasion. It is, again, an open-and-shut case.

I expect that he will plead guilty in that case. If Delaware made any impression on Hunter, it is that there are real costs to allowing your appetite to exceed your limitations. 

Jonathan Turley is an attorney and professor at George Washington University Law School.

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