Monday, July 15, 2024

These are the people, places that will take center stage in Hunter Biden’s trial

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The federal gun charge trial against Hunter Biden may be one of national intrigue, but its roots are in a local garbage can outside a well-known grocery store in Greenville, Delaware.

In a downtown Wilmington courthouse Monday, Hunter Biden is set to become the first child of a sitting U.S. president to face a criminal trial.

The evidence against him will include testimony about how the gun at the center the case ended up in a trash can outside Janssen’s Market, an upscale grocer in Delaware’s monied Greenville area. The proceeding will include testimony by a former Delaware State Police official who investigated that incident, as well as the person who trashed the gun: Biden’s then-lover and widow of his late brother.

It will also include testimony from workers from a gun store on U.S. 202 in Talleyville, Delaware, a shop that now finds itself at the center of criticisms by Hunter Biden’s defense attorneys for seemingly committing a similar paperwork infraction that led to Biden’s criminal charges.

It all started with an odd incident involving Hunter Biden and Hallie Biden at Janssen’s in October 2018, an incident that would escape the public eye for years.

How did Hunter Biden’s gun end up in the trash?

A Delaware State Police investigative report from 2018 included in court filings details the investigation into the incident, as well as interviews with Hunter Biden and Hallie Biden − the widow of Hunter Biden’s brother, the late Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden. At the time of the Janssen’s incident, she was Hunter Biden’s lover.

The police report isn’t clear on who summoned State Police to the grocery store, though it appears from the redacted copy included in court documents that it was a store employee. Police arrived and found Hallie Biden in the store’s office. She told officers she took her children to school that morning and returned home and searched Hunter Biden’s vehicle, locating the handgun in the center console.

She put it in a bag and later drove to Janssen’s and threw the bag and the gun in the trash outside the store, she told officers. Hunter Biden had left by the time she returned and she called him to confront him about the gun. She said Hunter Biden became upset and implored her to drive back and retrieve it.

But when she returned, the gun was no longer in the trash. She got nervous and approached the store owner to confess. The officer wrote that Hallie Biden “danced around” questions about why she searched Hunter Biden’s car and later stated she thought he was “screwing around on me.”

“She was kind of all over the place,” the officer wrote.

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In the presence of the officers, she then called Hunter Biden and told him the officer wished to speak to him. He arrived half an hour later.

He told the officer he was in a relationship with Hallie Biden, sometimes stayed at her home nearby but still lived in Washington D.C. He claimed he woke up at her home that morning and began to drive to Washington D.C. when he noticed the gun was missing and he called Hallie Biden, who admitted to tossing the gun in the trash.

He said he purchased it for target practice but had not shot it. The officer wrote that he told Hunter Biden that Hallie Biden was not very forthcoming and asked him if the gun had been used in a crime.

“He became very agitated with me and asked if I was intentionally trying to make him mad,” the officer wrote.

Biden also asked whether he should call an attorney. The officer emphasized that his interest was simply in locating the gun to protect children, as A.I. du Pont High School is right across the street.

Attention then focused on who might have retrieved the gun from the trash.

Hunter Biden told him Hallie Biden had mentioned noticing a “homeless man” collecting cans and speculated he may have the gun. Employees of the store and officers said they had also noticed the man in the past.

The officer wrote that two “Mexican males” then passed them wearing Janssen’s Market shirts and Hunter Biden stated “they have some shady people working at the market” and referred to the men as “prolly illegal.”

The officer later asked if he had told his father about this. Hunter Biden said, “I have never called my dad for anything.” He also speculated that Hallie Biden searched his car because she was worried he might harm himself.

Eventually, officers would focus on finding the man known for plundering the grocery store’s garbage.

How did officers find Hunter Biden’s gun?

About a week later, officers were able to locate the man with the help of a worker at another local store that the man frequented. They watched as he spent about an hour rummaging through trash receptacles in the Greenville Crossing Shopping Center and approached as he loaded the loot into the back of his car.

He told them he routinely collects recyclables to trade for cash when he goes to New York. Conversation then turned to someone putting something in the trash that shouldn’t have been there recently.

“Yes, they did,” the man responded. “A .38 special.”

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He then took officers back to his home where he had stashed the gun in a sock inside a box. The officer wrote that the man could not provide a reason why he didn’t report the gun to police, but told them he would alert authorities if he ever came across another in the trash.

He also gave officers another gun that he said his co-worker had given him many years ago with the understanding that it belonged to his co-worker’s brother, “who was in some kind of trouble and needed to get rid of the gun,” according to the police report.

The officer called Hunter Biden to report the gun’s recovery and wrote that Hunter Biden was firm that there should be no prosecution in the case.

“The whole thing is just stupid,” the officer quotes Hunter Biden saying.

Prosecutors in the Delaware Department of Justice were consulted and decided the case didn’t warrant any sort of criminal prosecution, according to the police report.

In addition to testimony from Hallie Biden, Millard Greer, a former state police officer who authored the final investigative report on the incident included in court files, is expected to testify. He has since taken a job as an investigator in the Delaware Department of Justice unit tasked with policing public corruption.

Were the Secret Service involved?

This incident was first reported by the conservative news website The Blaze in 2020. Their report was built on anonymous law enforcement sources.

Politico followed up on the story with a leaked copy of the Delaware State Police report, a document typically kept secret by state officials and shielded by Delaware’s restrictive public records law. The Politico story focused on a curious ripple: both state police investigators, as well as the Secret Service, had contacted the Delaware gun shop about the paperwork Hunter Biden filled out in purchasing the gun.

This was odd because Joe Biden was in between his term as Vice President and becoming the Democratic nominee for president, so he and his family were not under Secret Service protection, Politico reported.

In a recent interview with federal authorities, the owner of the gun shop reiterated that both State Police and the Secret Service separately contacted him shortly after Hunter Biden’s gun had gone missing. He said they seemed to not be aware of the other’s investigation. In the interview, the owner said the request from the Secret Service “didn’t feel right” so he only gave the form to State Police investigators at the time.

Why is the Brandywine Hundred gun store StarQuest Shooters involved?

While the trash can incident explains how the gun purchase came to the attention of federal investigators, it was the actual purchase that has Hunter Biden facing the potential of decades in prison.

The gun, a Colt .38 special revolver, was purchased from StarQuest Shooters & Survival Supply store on Concord Pike in October 2018, a few weeks before the Janssen’s incident.

The store is owned by Ron Palimere, who through the years has been quoted in Delaware Online/The News Journal about gun safety laws and doomsday prep. Attempts to reach him through the store and his email were unsuccessful.

Prosecutors intend to call another employee of the store, Gordon Cleveland, to testify about the transaction with Hunter Biden. Cleveland is expected to testify that he watched Hunter Biden fill out what is known as ATF form 4473. On it, prosecutors contend that Hunter Biden stated that he was not an unlawful user of or addicted to controlled substances.

Prosecutors contend that statement is false and it is the foundation of two of the criminal charges against Hunter Biden.

Meanwhile, Abbe Lowell, Hunter Biden’s primary defense attorney, last week signaled his intent to call Palimere to the stand to discuss differences between a copy of the ATF form emailed to federal authorities shortly after the purchase and the original that federal officials took possession of three years later.

The original that federal officials took possession of more recently had additions including “DE Vehicle Registration” written into a box for supplemental government-issued documentation. There were no alleged changes to the specific portion that Hunter Biden filled out.

Why was the form edited?

Lowell noted the “doctored” form in a pretrial hearing earlier this month, prompting prosecutors and FBI agents to interview Palimere and include a transcript in court filings seeking to keep what they describe as the “annotated” form out of evidence.

Palimere told agents that he also owned a consignment store next door and believed he was called from there to the gun shop when employees recognized Biden as a “celebrity-type customer.”

He remained in the back of the store and the salesman said Biden wanted to use his passport for identification, not a driver’s license, which is typical. Passports don’t typically contain a person’s home address, but Palmiere blessed the use of the passport, according to the interview report.

“Palimere was familiar with Biden’s father’s not being a gun supporter so Palimere thought it would be bad for Palimere’s business to have Hunter Biden seen in his store,” the report states. “Palimere wanted to get the sale completed and get Biden out of the store.”

He added that the fact that the “Biden family home was so well known” and his lack of knowledge about the details of a passport caused him to have incomplete information on the form. He didn’t handle the form for three years until a federal agent requested the original be turned over.

After he was contacted, he reviewed the form and another employee brought up that it needed to be annotated.

“Palimere decided to write Delaware registration in the box,” the interview summation states. “Palimere does not know why that was chosen but he knew it had to be an official document and it was all they could think of.”

It adds that Palimere told authorities he doesn’t think that Hunter Biden actually showed his vehicle registration the day he bought the gun. The interview report notes that federal authorities allow for forms to be annotated after the fact, which would typically involve calling the customer and having them show documents regarding their residency.

“Palimere was not about to call Biden. Palimere felt they could not have him come into the store,” the report states. “Plus, Palimere did not want to contact Biden and tell him he needed to come in and he was being investigated.”

Lowell has sought to make the annotation a feature of Hunter Biden’s defense.

In arguing for the edited form to be admitted, he said it speaks to the credibility of those testifying that Hunter Biden filled out the form and is also relevant to explore any benefit the witnesses received by prosecutors disregarding potentially incorrect information they put on the form.

In arguing to keep the edited form out of evidence, prosecutors argued it would confuse the jury and changes to the form after the fact are not relevant.

As of Friday, Presiding Judge Maryellen Norieka had not ruled whether the annotated form will be allowed into evidence.

Contact Xerxes Wilson at (302) 324-2787 or xwilson@delawareonline.com.

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