US Supreme Court eagle-eyeing into Jan 6 Capitol riot cases. What does it mean for Donald Trump? - Hindustan Times

US Supreme Court eagle-eyeing into Jan 6 Capitol riot cases. What does it mean for Donald Trump?

Apr 16, 2024 08:48 PM IST

The Supreme Court’s decision in Fischer v. United States could alter the legal landscape for Jan. 6 defendants and former President Donald Trump.

The US Supreme Court is going to hold hearings on Tuesday of this week in the case Fischer v. United States, which not only pits the incumbent but goes ahead to create a trial that puts in the cross-hairs over 300 individuals linked to the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack.

The U.S. Supreme Court building is seen in Washington, U.S.,REUTERS/Kevin Wurm/File Photo(REUTERS)
The U.S. Supreme Court building is seen in Washington, U.S.,REUTERS/Kevin Wurm/File Photo(REUTERS)

One of the main problems is whether an individual can be charged with a felony obstruction that is used to fight financial crimes by the law enforced, the defendants will get a punishment up to 20 years.

In response to the Enron accounting scandal, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act criminalizes the destruction of evidence, and anyone who “otherwise obstructs, influences or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so.”

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Participant at the “Stop the Steal” rally, Joseph Fischer, who was said to have been part of the Capitol rioting when the US Congress was certifying the 2020 elections' results, had to face prosecution for alleged involvement. He was among the rioters who broke into the Senate chamber.

Potential implications for Trump?

Justice DOJ claims that Fischer's act of breaking was unlawful and discouraging for the certification process of Congress, hence, obstruction of such an official proceeding.

Although the former President is not directly connected to the case, he faces a similar charge under scrutiny by Fischer.

The DOJ has managed to obtain dozens of convictions and guilty pleas from about 150 people who participated in the events of January 6th.

Fischer challenges the government's interpretation of the law as overly expansive and unprecedented. He argues that the “obstruction of an official proceeding” clause should be limited to the financial and evidentiary crimes the law was initially designed to address.

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A Trump-appointed district judge of the lower court initially ruled Fischer had prevailed, and the felony counts against him and some other accused rioters were dismissed. But, a divided three-judge bench revoked the decision in a 2-1 majority to uphold the charges.

Of the 15 federal judges overseeing cases involving Capitol rioters charged with obstruction of an official proceeding, 14 have permitted the DOJ to utilize the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

Supreme Court hearing could impact prosecutions of Jan. 6 Capitol rioters

A ruling in favour of Fischer by the Supreme Court could cast doubt on numerous January 6 prosecutions, potentially resulting in overturned convictions or reduced sentences.

But the former choice may completely collapse special prosecutor Jack Smith's prosecution of Trump for attempted bribery. The two counts of four officially charged in the federal complaint against the former president include conspiracy to impede (obstruct) and actual obstruction of an official proceeding covered by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act

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In the upcoming case set for this month, the high court will also look at whether Trump can claim immunity for his alleged wrongdoing with election interference.

A ruling in both cases is anticipated by the end of June.

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