The Supreme Court is considering a crucial obstruction statute while a federal judge cautions about the backlog of cases related to the Jan. 6 incident.

The Supreme Court is considering a crucial obstruction statute while a federal judge cautions about the backlog of cases related to the Jan. 6 incident.

Days after the Supreme Court, Washington is facing new developments. of

I will review the extent of

The utilization of a hindrance statute in the prosecution of numerous defendants for their purported actions during the Capitol riot on January 6, 2021, has sparked discussion in federal district court proceedings and among those who have already been convicted in prominent Jan. 6 cases.

During a hearing on Friday, Judge Beryl Howell expressed concern about a potential backlog of cases related to 1512, a federal statute that charges defendants with obstructing an official proceeding.

Oral arguments for the case disputing the Justice Department’s use of the statute have not been scheduled by the Supreme Court. It is anticipated that they will occur in the spring, and a ruling is expected by the end of June.

2 charges for obstructing an official proceeding, one for conspiracy and one for obstruction, brought against him by special counsel Jack Smith.pleaded not guilty

Regarding these two charges, as well as two additional ones stemming from his purported actions following the 2020 presidential election.

On Friday, Judge Howell stated that she has received communication from other judges in the federal district court in Washington who have encountered requests from defendants involved in the events of January 6th. These defendants have either been charged with or pleaded guilty to obstructing justice and are now seeking a pause in their legal proceedings until the Supreme Court decides if the law is applicable to their actions on January 6th.

According to Howell, requesting a federal prosecutor to modify a plea offer related to the 1512 charge in order to avoid delaying the case is not an “unreasonable” request. She also mentioned that the judges in the court may face scheduling backlogs due to the review by the high court.

The U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C. has pressed charges against over 1,000 individuals involved in the Jan. 6 incident, but has chosen not to provide a statement due to the ongoing legal proceedings.

A major asset in negotiations.

Former federal prosecutor Gene Rossi, who later represented a member of the Oath Keepers accused of involvement in the events of January 6th, stated that a ruling from the Supreme Court in favor of defendants could potentially help those who have either admitted guilt for obstructing justice or been found guilty of violating the relevant law. This could allow previously convicted defendants to petition the trial court for a new trial or reduced sentence. Rossi noted that the obstruction charge was present in all significant trials related to January 6th in the Washington district court.

According to Rossi’s statement to CBS News, the 1512 charge held a significant value for prosecutors and served as their main focus. It represented a pinnacle achievement in their prosecutions. If the Supreme Court were to eliminate this charge, it could greatly impact defendants.

According to Rossi, the Supreme Court’s decision to review the case is beneficial for defendants whose trials are still pending and not yet underway. It could potentially impact how prosecutors handle plea deals.

According to Rossi, the fact that the Supreme Court is willing to hear this case is a valuable bargaining tool. A skilled and experienced prosecutor would likely decide not to pursue a charge under section 1512 because of the potential risk. Instead, they would prefer to secure a conviction on lesser charges, such as misdemeanors or lower level felonies. In this situation, it is better to have a guaranteed outcome rather than taking the chance of having no outcome at all.

According to him, the Department of Justice is attempting to fit a square peg into a round hole by using a law that was created after the Enron scandal in the early 2000s to charge defendants. In that case, the accounting firm Arthur Andersen was accused of obstruction for getting rid of millions of documents and electronic records connected to Enron while the Securities and Exchange Commission was looking into the company.

Pursuing the obstruction charge against Jan. 6 defendants was “aggressive” and the Supreme Court deciding to accept the case “is a red flag and a loud gong,” Rossi said. 

The Supreme Court case

People walk past the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 13, 2023.

On November 13, 2023, individuals are seen walking by the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.

This image is credited to MANDEL NGAN from the AFP via Getty Images.

Calls for the Supreme Court to address the 1512 law stemmed from three criminal cases involving defendants accused of involvement in the attack on the Capitol. These individuals, Edward Lang, Garrett Miller, and Joseph Fischer, were each charged with willfully obstructing, influencing, or impeding a government proceeding. This particular provision is included in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which was enacted in 2002 after the Enron scandal.

The defendants each expressed concerns regarding the Justice Department’s utilization of the charge against accused individuals involved in the January 6th riots. This includes questioning the interpretation of the term “corruptly” by prosecutors and whether or not the statute encompasses the actions related to the breach of the Capitol building.

The Department of Justice advised the Supreme Court to reject the three cases, stating in part that it was premature for the justices to get involved as none of the individuals – Lang, Miller, or Fischer – had been found guilty of breaking the obstruction law.

Elizabeth Prelogar, the Solicitor General representing the United States in front of the Supreme Court, supported the Justice Department’s employment of the measure. In a written submission, she stated that the statute has a wide range of applicability. She clarified that it covers actions aimed at the official proceeding itself, specifically the joint session of Congress on January 6th where legislators met to validate Electoral College votes. This does not pertain to any records or evidence that may be presented during the proceeding.

“It can be said that a defendant hinders an official proceeding by physically impeding its occurrence – as was the case when the petitioners and others forcefully occupied the Capitol for several hours, thus hindering the joint session of Congress from carrying out its duties,” wrote Prelogar.

Even though the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit handled all three cases together, the Supreme Court only accepted Fischer’s case to address the extent of the law.

The accused are advocating for less severe punishments.

Prominent defendants have already requested temporary solutions in their cases while the judges review Fischer’s appeal.

charged with conspiracy, obstructing an official proceeding, and entering a restricted building with a dangerous weapon

Thomas Caldwell, a former member of the Oath Keepers, has requested a postponement of his sentencing that was set for later this month. Caldwell has been accused of conspiring, obstructing an official proceeding, and unlawfully entering a restricted building while in possession of a dangerous weapon.

found not guilty of more severe accusations

After being put on trial alongside leader Stewart Rhodes, they were found guilty under the 1512 obstruction statute.

Caldwell’s lawyer, David Fischer, has asked the judge to delay sentencing until the high court makes a ruling because the government is seeking a 14-year sentence based almost solely on his conviction for obstruction of justice.

According to Fischer’s statement to CBS News, we have confidence that Mr. Caldwell will eventually be cleared of charges due to a positive decision from the Supreme Court. As a result, we feel it is suitable to postpone his sentencing.

Another well-known accused individual, Kevin Seefried, gained attention after being spotted holding a Confederate flag during the Capitol riot. He has requested to be released from his three-year jail term while the case is being evaluated by a federal judge in Washington.

Seefried was of first degree murder

Found guilty of five charges for premeditated murder in the first degree.

Last year, the individual was charged with several offenses, such as obstructing an official proceeding and disorderly conduct. Recently, he has contested the validity of the 1512 statute. In court documents filed on Friday, his legal team argued that if the obstruction charge is dropped, his prison term should be significantly shortened.

The lawyer stated that if Mr. Seefried’s significant question is resolved in his favor, it is probable that his sentence will be shorter than the time he has already served, considering the anticipated length of the appeals process.

A legal representative for Donovan Crowl, a member of the Oath Keepers, who was found guilty in July of conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding and causing civil disorder, requested on Friday that Judge Amit Mehta postpone his sentencing, scheduled for January 12, until the Supreme Court makes a decision on Fischer’s case.

Carmen Hernandez, Crowl’s lawyer, argued in a filing that if the high court rules in favor of tossing out the 1512 conviction, it would greatly affect Crowl’s sentencing. This is due to several factors that are typically taken into consideration during sentencing, which would become more favorable to Crowl.

Hernandez informed CBS News that she requested a delay in Crowl’s sentencing due to the potential positive implications of the ongoing Supreme Court case for defendants involved in the January 6th incident.

None of the federal judges presiding over the cases of Caldwell, Seefried, or Crowl have made a decision on their requests. Additionally, Seefried’s legal representatives from the public defender’s office did not provide a comment in response to CBS News’ request.

On Friday evening, a different judge declined a motion to delay a sentencing hearing scheduled for next week due to the Supreme Court’s examination of the 1512 statute. Sara Carpenter’s request was rejected as the presiding judge in her case determined that her sentence was not significantly influenced by her conviction on the obstruction charge, considering the other accusations against her.

The judge’s short ruling on Friday mentioned that Carpenter was found guilty on seven charges, including felony civil disorder. This could create difficulties for future defendants attempting to do the same.