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Supreme Court makes it harder to charge Capitol riot defendants with obstruction

The case returns to a lower court that will apply this standard that could lead to the dismissal of charges for other January 6 defendants.
Demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court
Posted at 6:30 PM, Jun 28, 2024

The Supreme Court handed down several major rulings Friday, including one case limiting obstruction charges against January 6 rioters.

In the 6-3 ruling, the court said there must be proof someone tried to tamper with documents or records.

Chief Justice John Roberts wote for the majority, saying "Nothing in the text or statutory history suggests that subsection is designed to impose up to 20 years’ imprisonment on essentially all defendants who commit obstruction of justice in any way and who might be subject to lesser penalties under more specific obstruction statutes."

The case returns to a lower court that will apply this standard that could lead to the dismissal of charges for other January 6 defendants.

Related Story: Supreme Court says DOJ went too far with charges against Jan. 6 rioters

Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote the dissent, saying, "Once Congress has set the outer bounds of liability, the executive branch has the discretion to select particular cases to prosecute within those boundaries. By atextually narrowing §1512(c)(2), [the law] the court has failed to respect the prerogatives of the political branches."

Jeffrey Green, the attorney for Joseph Fischer — the defendant at the center of the case — says it's been a long and difficult road for his client.

"It's always nice to beat the government at the United States Supreme Court — that doesn’t happen very often," said Green.

The court's ruling could also have an impact on the federal criminal case against former president Donald Trump who faces a similar obstruction charge.