SCOTUS Takes Case That Could Overturn Capitol Protester Charges

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that could have a huge effect on the cases of multiple Jan. 6 defendants, as well as charges that have been levied against former President Donald Trump.

On Wednesday, the justices announced they will hear a challenge to a charge of obstruction of an official proceeding, which more than 300 people are currently facing as a result of their actions on Jan. 6, 2021.

Those charges stem from the fact that Congress was certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election inside the Capitol building that day.

Obstruction of an official proceeding is one of the four charges that Trump is being charged with as part of the case led by special counsel Jack Smith. In addition, he’s facing charges of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding.

The trial’s start date is scheduled for March 4, but this high court challenge could compromise that. In a separate case, the Supreme Court is weighing whether they will quickly rule on if Trump is immune from prosecution in the case, an argument that has been rejected by a previous federal judge.

The charge of obstruction has been used the most against defendants in the Jan. 6 case. If one were to be convicted on the count, they could face as much as 20 years in prison.
To date, 152 people have either pleaded guilty to that charge or have been convicted of it. The Associated Press reported that at least 108 of those defendants have received their sentences.

The case in question was brought by Jan. 6 defendants, who argue that the obstruction charge shouldn’t apply in their cases. U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols agreed with those arguments, but the Department of Justice appealed that decision.
After the DOJ won the appeal, the defendants decided to appeal to the Supreme Court for relief.

Should the high court rule in the defendants’ favor, it would have wide-ranging consequences for Jan. 6 defendants.

Kira Anne West, a defense attorney who’s represented multiple Jan. 6 defendants who have been charged with obstruction, said a ruling in their favor would force courts to “undo a whole bunch of cases.”

“This is a watershed day,” West said. “In our world — defense lawyer world — this is huge.”