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Jury deliberations begin in Hunter Biden's criminal trial after prosecutors cite 'overwhelming' evidence

WILMINGTON, Delaware — Jury deliberations began Monday in the federal criminal trial of Hunter Biden after prosecutors laid out what they described as “overwhelming” evidence against the president's son as he faces gun charges.

The panel deliberated for about an hour in the late afternoon before being sent home for the day.

Abbe Lowell, the attorney for Hunter Biden, urged the jury to find his client not guilty, arguing prosecutors had only offered “speculation or conjecture” — and not hard evidence — that his client was using drugs in the days around when he purchased a Colt Cobra revolver at a Wilmington gun store.

Prosecutor Leo Wise maintained there was a mountain of evidence he was an active addict at the time, including in Hunter Biden's own book.

“The evidence was personal, it was ugly, it was overwhelming,” Wise told the jury, recounting the evidence special counsel David Weiss's office had laid out since the trial started last week.

Wise also seemed to acknowledge members of the Biden family who'd been showing up in court, including first lady Jill Biden, who was in attendance again Monday.

“People sitting in the gallery are not evidence,” he said, adding while jurors may recognize some attendees from the news or the community, “respectfully, none of that matters.”

"No one is above the law," he said, adding that the evidence showed that Hunter Biden broke the law when he claimed he wasn't a drug user when he purchased a gun from a Delaware gun shop in 2018.

The closings started after Lowell rested his case in the morning without calling his client to the stand. Lowell had said on Friday a decision would be made about whether his client would testify over the weekend.

Hunter Biden is charged in federal court in Wilmington with three felony counts tied to possession of a gun while using narcotics and had pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors contend Hunter Biden lied when he filled out a federal form to buy the gun in October of 2018 and represented that he was not a drug user or addict. Lowell has suggested that his client didn't "knowingly" mislead anyone because he didn't consider himself a drug addict or drug user at the time.

Wise pushed back on the claim in his closing.

“He knew he was using drugs, that’s what the evidence shows,” he said, referring to Hunter Biden's text messages about drug use and large cash withdrawals during that time period.

“We see in these messages him buying drugs, telling other people he was using drugs,” Wise said. He also recounted testimony from Hunter Biden's ex-wife Kathleen Buhle and two former romantic partners about his frequent crack use. One, Zoe Kestan, testified that at some points he was smoking crack every 20 minutes. Wise also pointed to excerpts from Hunter Biden's memoir where he acknowledged his battles with drug addiction.

Hunter Biden was a "habitual drug user" from 2015 to 2019, Wise said, and he was when he bought the gun.

Lowell told jurors in his closing argument that Hunter Biden's writing after the fact about being an addict in his book, which was published in 2021, doesn’t mean he knew he was an addict during that period he described from 2015 to 2019.

He also said it was "unfair" of prosecutors to use his client's words about being an addict out of context.

“Hunter has not asked anyone to excuse or forgive him for his mistakes,” Lowell said.

Prosecutors, he argued, had not met their burden of proving their case beyond a reasonable doubt. “With this very high burden, it’s time to end this case,” he said. He ended his closing argument by reading a passage from Hunter Biden's book. “Remembering all those things feels like a terrible betrayal of where I am now,” Lowell said, quoting his client. “They prompt feelings of shame and guilt.”

During his rebuttal argument, prosecutor Derek Hines said Hunter Biden chose to record an audiobook about his conduct and chose to lie on the federal gun form about his drug use. He accused Lowell of pushing a "fictional story" and said Hunter Biden was well aware he was an addict.

“It may seem obvious, but someone who has a crack pipe to his mouth every 15 minutes knows they’re an addict,” Hines said.

The jury began deliberating around 3:30 p.m. ET.

Lowell had rested the defense case at around 10:30 a.m. ET.

Prosecutors then called back to the stand FBI special agent Erika Jensen for a brief rebuttal testimony. Jensen was the first witness prosecutors called in the case, and testified about information found on Hunter Biden's computer, phone and tablet.

She was asked Monday about messages Hunter Biden sent Hallie Biden in the time period around the gun purchase, including one where he indicated he was meeting a drug dealer. Lowell had suggested his client was lying about his location because he didn't want to see Hallie Biden, the widow of his brother Beau. Jensen testified that geolocation data indicated Hunter Biden was physically in the areas where he told Hallie Biden he was.

Lowell maintained those texts were "facetious."

Hallie Biden was involved in a romantic relationship with Hunter Biden around the time he bought the gun — years after her husband's death — and she testified last week about throwing the weapon out after she discovered it in his car.

After Jensen finished testifying, U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika read her instructions to the jurors about what they'll need to consider when they begin deliberating.

The trial began on June 3, just days after former President Donald Trump, who's facing off against President Joe Biden, was convicted in New York state court of falsifying business records.

In addition to Jill Biden, the president's brother James Biden and sister Valerie Biden Owens were in court for closings as well. James Biden had been mentioned as possible defense witness but was not called to the stand.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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