Supreme Court Signals It May Rule in Favor of January 6 Defendant – With Implications for the Trump Prosecution

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Washington D.C. – April 16, 2024 – A deeply divided Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a pivotal case that could affect hundreds of individuals charged in the January 6, 2021 Capital case linked to supporters of Donald Trump.  The defendant in that case, Joseph Fischer, is challenging the Government’s application of the obstruction law used to charge the January 6 defendants, claiming it is being improperly applied by Federal prosecutors.

The case is Joseph Fischer v. United States, Docket # 23-5572, currently pending in the Supreme Court.  You can read the transcript of the oral arguments HERE:

Joseph Fischer v. United States, Docket # 23-5572 – Transcripts of Oral Argument 4-16-2024

You can read the briefs filed in the Supreme Court HERE:

Joseph Fischer v. United States, Docket # 23-5572 – Joint Appendix

Joseph Fischer v. United States, Docket # 23-5572 – Brief of Petitioner Joseph Fischer

Joseph Fischer v. United States, Docket # 23-5572 – Reply Brief of Petitioner Joseph Fischer

Joseph Fischer v. United States, Docket # 23-5572 – Brief of Respondent United States

Conservative justices expressed apprehension about granting wide-ranging powers to prosecutors, fearing potential misuse against peaceful demonstrators or disruptors of legal proceedings. Conversely, some justices leaned towards supporting the Government’s stance. Others sought a middle ground, aiming to restrain the government’s discretion in applying the law while allowing the January 6 cases to proceed.

Defense attorneys contend that prosecutors stretched the law beyond its intended scope. Originally enacted in response to the Enron scandal, the law targeted fraudulent activities and document tampering. Now, it serves as the basis for more than 100 convictions and forms part of the charges against Donald Trump pending in the United States District Court in Washington D.C. filed by Special Counsel Jack Smith.

The outcome of this case could directly influence Trump’s federal trial, particularly regarding allegations of post-election power retention. A broad ruling against the Government would likely provide a legal basis for Trump to seek dismissal of these charges.

Expected in late June, the Supreme Court’s decision carries significant implications. It could potentially overturn convictions and sentences already passed and disrupt pending cases.

Joseph Fischer faced seven charges related to his Capitol entry, allegedly involving physical confrontation with police. Among these charges, obstruction of an official proceeding under 18 U.S.C. § 1512 featured prominently, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Fischer’s defense argues that the statute, designed in 2002 to address congressional inquiries and document tampering, was misapplied. They contend it should only apply to actions directly impairing evidence. The Government claims the law is a broad tool encompassing all forms of obstruction.

During oral arguments, justices appeared wary of both interpretations, signaling concerns about overreach or narrowness.

Despite potential implications for Trump’s case, the Justice Department signaled its intent to pursue obstruction charges against him regardless, arguing that his actions fit within the narrower interpretation.

Regardless of the court’s ruling, the impact on January 6 defendants remains significant. Many await the decision, with some experiencing delayed sentencing or early release pending the court’s determination.


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