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Hunter Biden’s trial is taking place in a city closely linked to his family

WILMINGTON, Del. – Hunter Biden was struggling with a bad part of his long addiction when he typed a message reflecting on the connection between his problems and his childhood home – the memories both good and bad, the people there who could lift him up but also drag him to downstairs.

“What is the worst place for me to stay clean,” he wrote that afternoon in November 2018, according to a text that is now part of the official report. “Delaware.”

This week, Hunter Biden is back in Delaware, in a city inextricably linked to him and his family, for a federal trial that could potentially send him to prison. The case is being heard in a federal courthouse named for J. Caleb Boggs, the senator who defeated his father in 1972, launching a political career that would culminate in the presidency.

The trial is also taking place around the corner from Biden’s campaign headquarters, where hundreds of staffers are working on a reelection effort that could be affected by what happens in Courtroom 4A. A few blocks away is the Amtrak station where Joe Biden, then a senator, commuted daily to Washington for decades, now called the Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Train Station. Nearby is the Brandywine Zoo, where Hunter Biden had his first job: shoveling llama manure and unclogging the otter pond drain, according to his memoir.

This week’s trial opens a new chapter in the Bidens’ long history in Wilmington, one that could prove tumultuous even for a family familiar with trauma and public scrutiny. The case centers on a gun purchase Hunter Biden made in October 2018, and a form on which prosecutors say he lied about not using or being addicted to illegal drugs.

But at the heart of the case is a relationship between a man, a family and a gritty American city. With a population of 72,000, Wilmington is hardly among the largest American cities, and there are few famous sights. It is a far cry from the glamor of other presidential homes such as John F. Kennedy’s in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. But with Joe Biden’s ascension to the White House and his habit of returning to Wilmington most weekends, it has taken on its own distinct role. in presidential history.

And now Wilmington is embroiled in the case involving the president’s son — from Hunter’s decision to buy a gun at StarQuest Shooters & Survival Supply on Concord Pike, to his then-girlfriend’s decision to put that gun in a trash can to throw at Janssen’s Market on Kennett Pike, 3.7 miles away.

And prosecutors have said they can make their case using data from a laptop that Hunter Biden allegedly delivered to a Mac repair shop in nearby Trolley Square.

As the trial began here on Monday, it was clear how strong Biden’s ties to the area are. During jury selection, a man said he knew Hunter’s brother Beau and was a coach for his children. Another recalled teaching at the same school as Jill Biden. One woman said she served Hunter Biden’s uncle at the bar where she worked (none of these candidates were chosen for the jury). And in the courtroom, Hunter was greeted by familiar faces who came to support him.

“When it came to Beau and Hunter, they were close to me,” said Ricky “Mouse” Smith, who has known Joe Biden since they met as teenagers at a local pool. “I’m here to basically say, ‘I support him.’ What they are doing to him is wrong.”

Hunter Biden has had mixed feelings about Wilmington — a place he described in his memoir “Beautiful Things” as “an overlooked, underappreciated microcosm of America” — and has seemed to spend his life alternately drawn to it and trying to escape of it.

He now lives 2,800 miles away in Los Angeles, across the country’s coast, a place that is both culturally and geographically distant. But at the end of his trial, a jury of his peers, selected from the town where he grew up, will be charged with evaluating the details of a case at the heart of this one.

“Growing up in Delaware doesn’t mean you automatically realize what a microcosm it is. But when you grow up in Delaware, Joe Biden’s son, you have no choice,” Hunter wrote in his memoir. “Not only will you learn how to interact with all kinds of people, you will also understand what motivates them, what they care about and what they really need.”

He described his childhood as almost idyllic, with days spent riding BMX bikes on back roads, playing hockey on an ice pond and throwing acorns at cars with a code: “Never throw at a car driven by a woman or an older person.” The highest value target was a teenager in a van.”

But it is also here where his mother and sister died in a car accident in 1972, and where he and his brother Beau spent months recovering in the hospital when their father was sworn in for the first of six terms in the U.S. Senate. . It is also here where Joe Biden has said that the grief of that loss once drove him to jump off a bridge.

Later, Wilmington launched Beau Biden as attorney general of Delaware before he was diagnosed with brain cancer. Wilmington is where Beau’s funeral took place in 2015.

And in Wilmington, Hunter learned that drinking alcohol could drown out his insecurities and make him the life of the party.

“It made me feel complete, filling a hole I didn’t even know was there — a sense of loss and a feeling of not being understood or not belonging,” he wrote of his drunkenness as freshman in high school.

In his last year, he said he occasionally used cocaine. Shortly after graduating, he was caught and charged with cocaine possession; after a pre-trial intervention and a six-month probation period, the arrest was expunged from his record.

As a young father and new husband, Hunter Biden and his then-wife Kathleen moved between Wilmington and Washington before eventually raising their family in the nation’s capital, a period during which he describes himself as a “functional alcoholic.” But the Bidens’ tragedies and the memories of the people they lost have ensured that Wilmington, even as their lives and careers focused on Washington, retained its powerful appeal.

Every year on December 18, the Bidens gather in Wilmington for 7 a.m. Mass at St. Joseph on Brandywine, leaving a wreath of three white roses on the grave to mark the anniversary of the crash that killed Joe Biden’s first wife Neilia and his colleagues were killed. Daughter Naomi, 1 year old. In 2015, Beau, who died aged 46, rested nearby.

By then, Hunter was also struggling with addiction and his marriage was falling apart. Kathleen told him that she and their three daughters would not spend the week with him, but would live in a separate house in Wilmington.

“I was devastated. I see now that she was trying to protect our girls,” Hunter wrote. “As much as it hurt me, I was the threat she had to protect them from. It’s hard-earned wisdom: As an addict, you often force those closest to you to make the tough decisions.”

Kathleen, who is intimately familiar with Hunter Biden’s addiction, is one of the witnesses the government is prepared to call.

After Beau’s death, Hunter and Beau’s widow Hallie began a romantic relationship, and they decided to move to Annapolis, Maryland. “We wanted to get out of the fishbowl in Wilmington,” Hunter Biden wrote.

But ultimately, that move felt to him like a failed attempt to run away, he suggests.

“It was an instant failure,” he wrote. “I made it almost impossible for Hallie to get healthy because of her grief and other issues she was dealing with, and she made it almost impossible for me to do the same.”

So they moved back to Wilmington, and on October 12, 2018, Hunter Biden walked into StarQuest Shooters to buy the gun. He wrote about his addiction problems around this time, and federal prosecutors have indicated they plan to use his text messages to corroborate his writings.

“I slept in a car smoking crack at 4th Street and Rodney,” Hunter wrote to Hallie Biden two days after purchasing the gun, referring to a seedy intersection in the heart of Wilmington.

A few days later, she threw the gun in the trash, setting off a chain of events that led to police discovering it — and ultimately to this week’s trial that revolved around how Hunter purchased it.

A few weeks after that purchase, Hunter Biden’s parents staged an intervention, according to his memoir. He was invited to dinner at their home in Wilmington, where relatives and advisors waited for him. He stormed out, his father chased him, his daughter screamed and took the keys from him.

Ultimately, Hunter agreed to go to rehab in Maryland. But after Hallie dropped him off there, he immediately went to an airport hotel. He smoked crack for two days, he would later write. And then he boarded a flight to Los Angeles to try to start a new life.

His life has indeed stabilized in California, his friends and colleagues say: He has remarried, started an art career and worked to stay clean and sober.

But this week, his past drew him back to Wilmington.

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