Supreme Court appeal by January 6 defendants could impact case against Trump

September 19, 2023

USA Today reported this weekend that three January 6 defendants are appealing to the Supreme Court for help. As the paper noted, that move could have major implications for former President Donald Trump.

Edward Lang, Joseph Fischer, and Garret Miller were all indicted for "obstruction of an official proceeding," a charge that they are disputing.

Attorneys say "the First Amendment hangs in the balance"

The men have pointed out that the charge stems from a law in 2002 following the collapse of Enron and is being misapplied in the contest of January 6.

Title 18, Section 1512 states that an individual who "corruptly alters, destroys, mutilates, or conceals a record, document" or "otherwise obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so" can be imprisoned for up to 20 years.

"It is no overstatement to say the future of the First Amendment hangs in the balance," Lang's attorneys insisted in their brief to America's highest judicial body.

The lawyers maintain that a law "intended to combat financial fraud" has instead "been transformed into a blatant political instrument to crush dissent."

Dispute over whether defendants were "corrupt"

According to Newsweek, Lang's legal team also asserts that their client lacked the crime's "corrupt" element. What's more, they also say that the Supreme Court must weigh in as varying opinions among lower courts have created a "cacophonous result that leaves unsettled significant issues."

"The petitioner submits that the Justice Department's overbroad application of the federal penal code to prosecute participants in the January 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol is the act of a behemoth unrecognized, unwarranted and unwelcome in American life," Newsweek quoted their brief as reading.

"Our political life for centuries has been fractious, with violence all too frequent. Seeking to punish and silence dissent in the name of democracy is the twisted dream of a slumbering tyrant," it adds.

Lang, Fischer, and Miller are among the roughly 200 January 6 defendants who were charged with obstruction of an official proceeding.

Other examples include Jacob "QAnon Shaman" Chansley, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, former Olympic swimmer Klete Kelle, as well as Trump himself.

Law professor expressed skepticism

Craig Trocino is University of Miami law professor, and he expressed skepticism over whether or not the three men will be successful in their case.

What they're doing is what any defense lawyer in their position would be doing. That doesn't mean that they're going to win or that they're legally correct," Trocino told USA Today.

"When you look at a statute like this, for these purposes, you use the words' ordinary meanings. I don't believe that that's so outrageously vague as to offend due process under these circumstances," he added.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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