The President’s Son: A Routine Gun Case, but Abnormal in Every Way

When the federal prosecutor, Derek Hines, began his opening statement with the words “no man is above the law,” it signified the only rhetorical acknowledgment to the jury that the trial of Hunter Biden was not an ordinary gun charge.

Mr. Hines seemed intent on trying a seemingly run-of-the-mill case of a drug addict charged with illegally purchasing a firearm. In doing so, however, it was as if he had instructed the 12 jurors, in the manner of the wizard in “The Wizard of Oz,” to pay no attention to the extraordinary spectacle plainly in view.

Pay no attention to the defendant’s last name, the most famous one in Wilmington. Pay no attention to the first lady, Jill Biden, sitting in the front row behind the defendant, whom she raised as her own son. Pay no attention to Mr. Biden’s famous attorney, Abbe Lowell, or to the millionaire Hollywood lawyer also in the front row, Kevin Morris, who is largely bankrolling his friend Mr. Biden’s legal defense.

And pay no attention to the 50 or so members of the media taking up most of the spectator space — among them a documentary film team paid for by Mr. Morris.

The 12 jurors were left to deduce these matters on their own. Several of them stole glances at the defendant, as if trying to square the image of the 54-year-old man in the dark suit, flag lapel pin and tortoiseshell reading glasses with the crack addict described in the testimony. At one point, Mr. Biden flashed a genetically familiar broad smile while talking to Mr. Lowell during a courtroom break.

For the most part, however, the defendant looked the somber part of a man facing up to 25 years in prison. He sat impassively, listening along with the jury to his own voice reciting the audio version of his memoir, “Beautiful Things,” including the observation, “We’ve all been inside rooms we can’t afford to die in.”

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