Attorney Abbe Lowell has faced a series of legal blows in his defense of Hunter Biden, but not quite as literal or lethal as what came this week in his client’s gun prosecution.
After Lowell sought to dismiss the federal indictment as a trumped-up political prosecution, the Justice Department lowered the boom and revealed that Hunter’s gun was found in a pouch covered in cocaine. The disclosure is devastating for a defense that Lowell just rolled out late last year.
In October, Lowell argued that Hunter had not lied on ATF Form 4473 when he indicated he was not an unlawful user of, or addicted to, narcotics.
“At the time that he purchased this gun, I don’t think there’s evidence that that’s when he was suffering,” he said.
It was a curious shift, since Hunter, President Biden and the media have repeatedly used his addiction to forgive everything from corruption to influence-peddling. Hunter released a book that had laid the foundation of that defense, and “Beautiful Things” was heralded by many in the press.
Reviews gushed about “an astonishingly candid and brave book about loss, human frailty, wayward souls, and hard-fought redemption.”
The image of a clear, redemptive soul is strikingly out of sync with a gun pouch that the officers who found it said was covered in coke.
In the special counsel’s filing, the court was informed that “an FBI chemist subsequently analyzed the residue and determined that it was cocaine. To be clear, investigators literally found drugs on the pouch where the defendant had kept his gun.”
Hunter bought and possessed the Colt Cobra 38SPL revolver for 11 days between Oct. 12 and Oct. 23, 2018.
That possession ended when his sister-in-law Hallie Biden tossed the firearm into a dumpster in Wilmington, Delaware.
Hallie, the widow of Hunter’s deceased brother, had begun a sexual relationship with him and she apparently became concerned about what he might do with the gun.
According to Hunter’s own memoir, that would make the window of sobriety a mere blink in time for a defense.
The defense will likely challenge the admissibility of police testing due to the gun being tossed into the dumpster.
Of course, Lowell can now argue that Wilmington dumpsters are so saturated with cocaine that any item would come out covered in coke.
It is more likely that they will cite the break in the chain of custody as making the test unreliable and prejudicial.
What is clear is that the sobriety defense seems not so much risky as implausible.
The government could argue that it should be able to use the testing as circumstantial evidence to rebut the claim or even impeach Hunter if he takes the stand (which seems unlikely).
Hunter wrote about being a crack addict and alcoholic throughout this period, writing in his book that at some points he was “drinking a quart of vodka a day by yourself in a room is absolutely, completely debilitating” as was “smoking crack around the clock.”
It’s not the government portraying Hunter as Tony Montana from “Scarface,” it’s Hunter himself. He’ll have a tough time changing that story now.
Jonathan Turley is an attorney and professor at George Washington University Law School.