Hunter Biden lawyers stressed jury must see ‘doctored form’ at gun trial, but the judge refused


Hunter Biden, David Weiss

Hunter Biden, left, and his wife, Melissa Cohen Biden, arrives at federal court, Monday, June 3, 2024, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum); special counsel David Weiss pictured in November 2023. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Before a jury of six men and six women were selected for Hunter Biden’s gun trial, the defense already lost out in a key way when imploring the federal judge in the case not to keep a “doctored form” out of evidence.

Attorneys for President Joe Biden’s son said in a supplemental filing made public Monday that “it would be wrong to exclude this evidence,” arguing that it was “relevant to all counts because it goes to the credibility of the gun shop employees who sold the gun to Biden, as to what occurred when that purchase was made” at StarQuest Shooters & Survival Supply in 2018.

Hunter Biden faces a federal criminal trial on charges that he “knowingly made a false and fictitious written statement, intended and likely to deceive” StarQuest to obtain a Colt Cobra 38SPL revolver, namely that he “was not an unlawful user of, and addicted to, any stimulant, narcotic drug, and any other controlled substance[.]”

Special counsel David Weiss further alleged that Biden falsely “certified” to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) on “Form 4473” that he was not an unlawful user of or addicted to drugs and that he illegally possessed the firearm from Oct. 12, 2018 to Oct. 23, 2018 — for 11 days — while “knowing” that he was an unlawful user of or addicted to drugs.

According to the defense, there were reasonable questions about whether StarQuest owner Ron Palimere and salesmen Gordon Cleveland and Jason Turner themselves complied with the law in the sale of the gun and the subsequent handling of the form, on which Biden allegedly checked the boxes “no” when asked if he was an addict.

At root, the defense said that the form Biden filled out on Oct. 12, 2018, was “doctored” in “material” ways in 2021 before it was handed to the ATF.

“The first material difference was the addition of the seller’s transaction serial number on page 1, and the second material change was the addition of ‘DE VEHICLE REGISTRATION’ at line 18.b on page 2,” the defense filing said. “Whenever those changes occurred (and we know now from Jencks material by whom), they were not done in accordance with the law or the form’s directions for making such additions: no one initialed the change and no additional document was attached to the form. In later communications, the store owner referred to his efforts as being ‘behind the scenes,’ and that phrase certainly opens the questioning of what was involved in those actions.”

The defense, noting that the special counsel “only” plans to call Gordon Cleveland as witness, nonetheless argued the changes to the form were made in a way that did not comply with the law and that shop owner Ron Palimere “attempted to conceal the changes initially as part of an effort to get the story about Biden’s gun purchase into the media before the 2020 election.”

Nor can government witness Cleveland say with certainty that the sale itself followed the law, the defense claimed.

“[H]e cannot say that Biden presented the vehicle registration, but simply assumes that someone else at the gun store would have obtained a second form of identification. Biden should be allowed to challenge this assumption that the gun store would have followed the law in obtaining a second form of identification,” the defense asserted. “This second form of identification is not (nor is any change initialed) on the form the Special Counsel wants to use that is seemingly contemporaneous with the transaction, but added only years later in an apparent attempt to hide the fact that the gun shop was willing to ignore the rules and instructions on the form itself to make the sale.”

“The form the defense seeks to use to examine witnesses did not have any new ID attached and did not have any initials of the person who made the changes,” the defense added. “If the gun shop was willing to ignore the law to make the sale when it came to obtaining the proper identification, it is relevant and part of Biden’s defense to explore whether the gun shop would look past other legal obstacles to making the sale—including a disqualifying answer to one of the Section 922(g) questions on the form.”

Crucially, U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika, a Donald Trump appointee, over the weekend rejected Biden’s attempt to introduce this evidence, since it all, in her view, seemed to be geared towards confusing the jury by arguing that political partisans were out to get the defendant.

“The Court finds that the 2021 Form is irrelevant and inadmissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 401 and excludes it at trial. Moreover, even if the 2021 Form were admissible, the Court finds that it is excluded under Federal Rule of Evidence 403 because any probative value it arguably has is substantially outweighed by a danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of issues, and misleading the jury,” the judge ruled. “Questioning, testimony, evidence or argument, including but not limited to, the additional exhibits designated by the Defendant as tabs ‘6-6C’ to his supplemental submission regarding any witnesses’ political bias are excluded from introduction or admission at trial because such questioning, testimony, evidence or argument is not relevant, is unduly prejudicial and invites nullification.”

In a footnote, the judge slammed the defense focus on the gun shop owner’s politics as “sideshows aimed at tainting or confusing the jury.”

Perhaps the issue will come up again one day in an appeal. For now, opening statements are set to begin.

Weiss, for his part, submitted a filing Tuesday in support of numerous exhibits he wants to introduce at trial, including messages, photos, and videos that the special counsel maintains are relevant to Biden’s drug addiction timeline.

The judge reportedly found that images Biden challenged, including a redacted “naked” photo, amounted to admissible “circumstantial evidence” of the defendant’s use of drugs.

Read Hunter Biden’s supplemental filing here.

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