Supreme Court Verdict for Rioters on January 6 Against Prohibition Charges

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Friday ruled in favor of a former police officer seeking to throw out obstruction charges for his involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riots.

Justices on a 6-3 vote Joseph Fischer, one of hundreds of defendants on January 6 — including former President Donald Trump — accused of obstruction of official action in an attempt to block Congressional certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory was awarded a non-ideological victory. .

The law, enacted in 2002 as part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act after the Enron accounting scandal, the court concluded. It was intended to apply only to very limited situations involving forms of tampering with evidence, not the broad array of situations that prosecutors claimed it covered.

The provision targets anyone who “obstructs, influences or obstructs, or attempts to obstruct, any official action,” but the court determined that its scope was limited by an earlier sentence in the statute regarding the alteration or destruction of records.

Jan. 6, 2021 Joseph Fischer, second left, inside the Capitol.US District Court

The court sent the case back to the lower courts for further proceedings on whether the Justice Department could still prosecute Fischer under the new interpretation of the law.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement that he was disappointed by the decision because of the impact it would have on the Justice Department’s Jan. 6 cases, though he stressed it would not affect the majority of them.

He added that the ruling “limits an important federal law that the department wants to use to ensure that those most responsible for that attack face appropriate consequences.”

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This is Jan. 6, 2021, Solicitors Fischer joined the crowd from the east side overtaking the Capitol. “Charge!” He yelled repeatedly, before he advanced towards a line of police, “Mother —–s!” Government says.

Then he and other rioters fell to the ground. After other rioters carried him away, video evidence revealed in other January 6 raids showed him trying to appeal to officers guarding the Capitol, saying he was an officer.

Fischer previously served as a police officer in North Cornwall Township, Pennsylvania. (Another man, Joseph Fisher, a police officer, was recently sentenced to 20 months in prison for his own role on January 6.)

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that the government’s view of the statute’s limitation “violates the most plausible understanding” of the statute. Questioned18 US Code 1512. The provision carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.

He added that the Justice Department’s interpretation would “criminalize a wide range of sophisticated behavior, jailing activists and lobbyists for decades.”

To prove a violation, prosecutors must now show that the defendant “impaired the existence or integrity of records, documents, objects or … other things used in the proceeding for use in official proceedings,” Roberts wrote.

He was joined by four other conservatives and one liberal — Justice Katanji Brown Jackson — in the majority. Two other liberal justices were joined in a dissent by conservative Amy Coney Barrett.

Jackson wrote in a separate opinion that Fischer’s conduct could still be obscured by a narrow interpretation of the law.

He added that a joint session of Congress held on January 6 to certify election results “clearly used certain records, documents or materials – including those related to electoral votes, among others.”

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Barrett wrote that while no one disputed that the joint session was an official proceeding, the question of whether Fischer could be prosecuted “seems open and closed.”

The majority, he added, “cannot simply trust what Congress has said” when writing a broad statute that covers a wide range of conduct. He wrote that the court “failed to respect the prerogatives of the political branches” in ruling against the prosecutors.

The ruling does not affect Trump’s case. Even if Fischer wins, Trump’s conduct would be covered by the law’s narrow interpretation, lawyers said.

Fischer faces seven criminal charges, only one of which was the focus of the Supreme Court case. Even if the obstruction charge is ultimately dismissed, Other charges, including assaulting a police officer and entering a restricted building, will remain.

The court, with its 6-3 conservative majority, has been skeptical of prosecutors in the past when they have pushed for broader applications of criminal statutes.

In his election interference case, Trump faces four charges, including one count of obstructing official proceedings and another count of conspiracy.

In a separate case, the Supreme Court is considering Trump’s claim of presidential immunity in an election interference case, which could also affect whether all charges are pending trial.

Of the 1,400 Jan. 6 cases that could be affected by the Fischer ruling, 247 cases are pending, including only 52, of which 27 defendants are still serving sentences. Most recently, the January 6 defendant, Benjamin Martin, was convicted Wednesday of obstructing official business, but he was also convicted of civil disorder and misdemeanor charges.

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Recently, judges have factored the pending Fischer decision into their sentencing decisions. If a defendant had been convicted of another crime, such as assault on an officer, they would have reached the same conclusion regardless of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Fischer, they said on the record.

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