By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
In a development with potentially far-reaching implications, the United States Supreme Court announced on Wednesday that it will hear an appeal that could unravel hundreds of convictions linked to the deadly January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. The case, revolving around charges related to the Capitol riot, includes accusations against the twice-impeached and four-times indicted former President Donald Trump. The focus of the Supreme Court’s attention is an appellate ruling that reinstated a charge against three defendants accused of obstructing an official proceeding. The charge explicitly concerns disrupting Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential election victory over Trump, who currently faces more than 90 felony criminal charges and whom a civil jury ruled should pay $5 million in damages for sexually assaulting a writer. The obstruction charge just one of the four counts in the case that special counsel Jack Smith has made alleging that Trump conspired to tamper with election results and obstruct a legal process.
The court’s decision to review the obstruction charge could disrupt the timeline of Trump’s impending trial, currently scheduled for March 4. The justices are also debating whether to quickly rule on Trump’s claim that he cannot face charges for actions taken while he was president, which a federal judge has already rejected. The Associated Press noted that the obstruction charge has been leveled against more than 300 defendants as part of the extensive federal prosecution following the violent insurrection on January 6, 2021, when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol to prevent Biden, a Democrat, from assuming the presidency.
The case’s origins trace back to a lower court judge who dismissed the obstruction charge against Joseph Fischer, a former Boston police officer, and two other defendants, contending that it did not cover their actions. The Supreme Court’s involvement resulted from Fischer’s attorneys filing an appeal. The other defendants involved in the appeal are Edward Jacob Lang from New York’s Hudson Valley and Garret Miller, who has already pleaded guilty to additional charges and received a 38-month prison sentence. Notably, Miller, hailing from the Dallas area, may still face prosecution on obstruction charges. U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols played a pivotal role by ruling that prosecutors stretched the law beyond its intended scope in those January 6 cases. Nichols maintained that, under the law, a defendant must have taken specific actions concerning a document, record, or object to obstruct an official proceeding. The Justice Department contested the ruling, and in April, the appeals court in Washington sided with prosecutors, deeming Nichols’ interpretation too restrictive. More than 1,200 individuals have been charged with federal crimes linked to the Capitol riot, and more than 650 defendants have pleaded guilty.