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Supreme Court says DOJ went too far with charges against January 6 rioters

The high court's ruling could affect the cases of hundreds of other
Posted at 8:54 AM, Jun 28, 2024

The Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that federal prosecutors went too far in bringing obstruction charges against participants of the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

The case was a rare one in which the three liberal justices were not voting in unison. Instead, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson joined Chief John Roberts, who authored the decision. Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the Democratic appointees Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor in the minority.

The decision came after the justices heard arguments from a former Pennsylvania police officer, Joseph Fischer, who was indicted for his role in disrupting Congress’ certification of President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.

Hundreds of other people have faced the same charge for impeding an official proceeding, including former President Donald Trump, who was defeated in the 2020 election. This high court ruling could affect those decisions.

The Supreme Court sent the case back to a lower court to decide whether the charges should still stand.

The Associated Press said about 170 of those Jan. 6 defendants charged with obstruction have been convicted, most of whom entered the Senate chamber or offices of Congress members during the riot. Many had their sentences delayed until the high court ruling.

Trump faces two obstruction charges in a separate case — the same case the Supreme Court will soon decide on regarding the former president’s claims of immunity.

According to The Associated Press, Special Counsel Jack Smith, who brought forth the obstruction charges against Trump in a federal court in Washington, D.C., has argued that the charges against Trump are valid regardless of the Supreme Court’s ruling.

The court noted that the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 imposes criminal liability on anyone who corruptly “alters, destroys, mutilates, or conceals a record, document, or other object, or attempts to do so, with the intent to impair the object’s integrity or availability for use in an official proceeding.”

Roberts ruled that prosecutors must show that the "defendant impaired the availability or integrity for use in an official proceeding of records, documents, objects, or other things used in an official proceeding, or attempted to do so."