Supreme Court Ruling LIMITS Ability To Charge Jan 6 Defendants With Obstruction

The Supreme Court pulled some shenanigans related to January 6th defendants charged with “obstruction of an official proceeding,” narrowing the ability of the government to apply that charge. Now, on its face, that sounds BAD. But in reality, it’s kind of not a big deal.

The brilliant minds at Just Security broke it down and made me feel a whole lot better. It was a 6-3 ruling, but Barrett was in the dissent, Jackson with the majority. QUIRKY!

Here are some of the highlights of the ruling on Fischer vs US:

“The upshot is that the decision means little in terms of the pending charges against former President Donald Trump. It means potentially more to a subset of the January 6th defendants who were charged under this statute, who comprise only a fraction – 24% – of the existing January 6th defendants.”

Ok, now we are talking. Keep going.

“And even within that 24%, in the great majority of cases that have resulted in a guilty verdict (by plea or after trial) for a 1512(c)(2) offense, the defendant was also found guilty of one or more other felonies (62%). Further, as to the 71 defendants who have been charged under Section 1512(c)(2) and are still awaiting trial, all of them are charged with crimes in addition to 1512(c)(2), and a majority are charged with one or more other felonies.”

This sounds promising! So this is not usually a standalone charge. It is just tacked on with other offenses, mainly felonies.

Ok, but what about these guys:

“26 of these defendants have been (or were scheduled to be) sentenced solely for a violation of 1512(c)(2). That’s because only 26 defendants pleaded guilty exclusively to 1512(c)(2) and no other crime”

Do they walk free? Not necessarily. Because the DOJ built in an escape hatch just in case this happened:

“The agreement provides that in the event the 1512 conviction following the guilty plea is vacated, the defendant may be prosecuted for the other crimes that the Justice Department initially brought against them, but agreed not to pursue so long as the 1512(c)(2) charge was not vacated.”

So, good. Sounds like there will not be a parade of insurrectionists walking out of prison.

Justice Barrett came in HOT against this opinion, writing “The Court does not dispute that Congress’s joint session qualifies as an ‘official proceeding’; that rioters delayed the proceeding; or even that Fischer’s alleged conduct (which includes trespassing and a physical confrontation with law enforcement) was part of a successful effort to forcibly halt the certification of the election results. Given these premises, the case that Fischer can be tried for ‘obstructing, influencing, or impeding an official proceeding’ seems open and shut. So why does the Court hold otherwise?”

AG Garland put out a statement: “The vast majority of the more than 1,400 defendants charged for their illegal actions on Jan. 6 will not be affected by this decision.”

Biden spokesperson statement: “Violent insurrectionists and those who encourage them must be held accountable, but Donald Trump thinks otherwise. Just last night, Trump again defended January 6 and the insurrectionists who violently assaulted law enforcement officers and tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power. Today’s ruling does not change the fundamental truth that Donald Trump will always put himself over our democracy”

But ultimately it does not appear that this will change that much for those convicted and those on trial. It is quite common for prosecutors to charge for multiple offenses and then either plea a few down or try to convictions on multiple offenses JUST IN CASE this stuff happens.

They will remain in prison, most likely sentences will not change.

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