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Supreme Court’s Review of Jan. 6 Charge Has Already Freed Some Rioters

The Supreme Court’s decision to review the merits of a widely used obstruction law against those who participated in the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021 is already having an effect on some rioters.

A small group of people convicted under the law have been released — or soon will be — although judges who will hear arguments Tuesday are not expected to decide the case for months.

In recent weeks, federal judges in Washington agreed to release about 10 defendants who were serving prison sentences under the obstruction law, saying the defendants could wait at home while the court determined whether the law should have been used to keep them locked up.

Among those already free is Matthew Bledsoe, the Tennessee moving company owner who scaled a wall outside the Capitol and then marched into the building with a Trump flag, ultimately planting it in Trump’s arm. ‘a statue of President Gerald R. Ford.

Defendants like Kevin Seefried, a Delaware drywall installer who carried a Confederate flag through the Capitol, and Alexander Sheppard, an Ohio man who pushed past police lines to become one of the first people to enter breaking into the building, will soon be released.

The interrupted sentences – which could be reinstated depending on the Supreme Court’s decision – are just one of the complications that emerged during the court’s review of the obstruction law, known in the penal code as of 18 USC 1512. The charge was used for far against more than 350 rioters, including Jacob Chansley, the so-called QAnon Shaman, and members of the far-right extremist groups the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.

When the justices announced in December that they planned to review the law, many legal experts expressed concern that a ruling narrowing its scope or striking down its use in cases related to Jan. 6 could deal a blow devastating to the Justice Department’s efforts to detain hundreds of people. responsible rioters.

Federal prosecutors have often used the obstruction charge instead of more politically charged charges, such as seditious conspiracy, to punish the central event of January 6: the interruption of a proceeding at the Capitol to certify the ‘election.

But in recent months, judges and prosecutors working on Capitol riot cases have quietly adapted to the potential threat of a Supreme Court ruling, and the risk that there will be catastrophic consequences on the whole affair no longer seems so serious.

For one thing, according to the Justice Department, no defendants currently face the sole charge of obstruction. Each rioter charged on this count was also charged with other crimes, meaning that even if the obstruction statute were removed as a tool for the Jan. 6 prosecutions, no case would go away completely.

Indeed, if the court decides that the charge of obstruction does not apply to the attack on the Capitol, the main effect of the decision would be felt on the penalties incurred by the accused. The obstruction law carries a hefty maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and while few, if any, rioters received such a sentence, the law generally carried several years in prison.

But some judges have already indicated they would increase sentences stemming from other charges if they did not have the obstruction charge.

In February, for example, Judge Royce C. Lamberth denied early release to an Iowa man named Leo Kelly, who was sentenced to 30 months in prison for obstruction and six other crimes.

Judge Lamberth’s reason for not releasing Mr. Kelly?

Even if the Supreme Court ruled that it was not authorized to convict Mr. Kelly of obstruction, Justice Lamberth said he could increase the defendant’s total prison time by imposing consecutive sentences instead of concurrent for misdemeanor charges.

News Source : www.nytimes.com
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jack colman

With a penchant for words, jack began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class.After interning at the New York Times, jack landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim.Though writing is his passion, jack also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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