Supreme Court to debate obstruction law that could overturn Jan. 6 charges

by | Apr 16, 2024

The Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear arguments in the first of two pivotal cases that could shape the course of President Trump's legal battles over his alleged endeavors to ‘overturn’ the 2020 election. This case holds considerable weight due to the potential to influence, and possibly overturn, the criminal prosecution against Trump.

At the heart of the case up for argument, Fischer v. United States, is the question of whether a federal law passed in 2002 to deter the concealment of financial crimes can be applied to prosecute certain defendants involved in the events of January 6th, potentially resulting in sentences of up to 20 years.

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act makes it a crime to destroy evidence, particularly records or documents, and prohibits anyone from obstructing, influencing, or impeding any official proceeding, or attempting to do so.

The DOJ has employed the statute to secure convictions or guilty pleas from over 150 individuals implicated in the events of January 6th.

Though Trump is not a defendant in the case, he faces the same charge that is being challenged by a former Pennsylvania police officer, Joseph Fischer.

Fischer, a participant in the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6th, is among those facing prosecution for purportedly being part of the crowd that breached the Capitol as Congress was in the process of certifying the 2020 election ‘results.’

Fischer's legal team asserts that the provision was intended to address a gap in criminal law and deter the destruction of records in response to investigations. They informed the court that prior to the Capitol riot, every criminal case utilizing the provision had centered on accusations of destroying or tampering with records.

Fischer also contends that the government's interpretation of the law is excessively broad and unprecedented. He argues that the “obstruction of an official proceeding” clause should only be applied to the specific types of financial and evidentiary crimes that the law was originally designed to address.

A District Court judge, Trump-appointee Carl J. Nichols, ruled in favor of Fischer and dismissed the felony count against him and several other alleged rioters. However, a divided Appeals Court panel later overturned that decision in a 2-1 ruling, reinstating the charges.

In total, 14 out of the 15 federal judges who have presided over cases involving alleged Capitol rioters charged with obstruction of an official proceeding have permitted the DOJ to utilize the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

President Trump is confronting two charges in a case filed by special counsel Jack Smith in Washington, which could be significantly undermined with a favorable ruling from the nation's highest court.

Two of the four counts in the federal indictment against Trump revolve around the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

In the upcoming week, the justices will deliberate over whether Trump enjoys “absolute immunity” from prosecution in this case. A ruling is expected by the end of June in both cases.

Source: ABC News

Source: AP News



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