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Supreme Court rules in favor of a January 6 protester

This is the case of Joseph Fischer, who challenged a federal felony obstruction conviction. The court decision could affect dozens of sentences for the assault on the Capitol.

Imagen de archivo del edificio del Tribunal Supremo de EE.UU. al amanecer, en Washington D.C., el jueves 4 de enero de 2024. (Graeme Sloan/Sipa EE.UU.)

Cordon Press

The Supreme Court ruled Friday in favor of Joseph Fischer, who was involved in the Jan. 6 riots at The Capitol. He challenged a conviction for a federal obstruction offense.

"The ruling reverses a lower court decision and returns the case to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, who will have the opportunity to reassess the case with Friday's ruling in mind," reported Fox News which had access to the ruling.

Fischer's attorneys argued that the federal statute should not apply and had only been applied to cases of evidence tampering with documents or other objects necessary for the process. The assailants, therefore, could not be tried under the rule because they did not prevent the delivery of documents or other objects necessary for the presidential certification.

"The Justice Department argued that Fischer’s actions were a 'deliberate attempt' to stop a joint session of Congress directly from certifying the 2020 election,” Fox reported. 

According to Fox News, during the proceedings, Justice Neil Gorsuch questioned whether, according to the government's argument, booing the State of the Union address or the recent incident of Democratic Rep. Jaamal Bowman pulling the fire alarm and derailing a House vote could also qualify as obstruction.

Garland responds

"I am disappointed by today’s decision," Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

"For the cases affected by today’s decision, the Department will take appropriate steps to comply with the Court’s ruling," he promised, before adding that he would continue to "use all available tools to hold accountable those criminally responsible for the January 6 attack on our democracy."

"A huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders"

The ruling could have an impact on the lawsuits against 250 defendants, although each case will have to be analyzed by lower courts taking into account particularities such as whether there was already a conviction and whether there were other charges in addition to obstruction.

Most judgments or sentences, however, will remain unchanged: 80% of the cases do not involve the charge dismissed by the Supreme Court, according to an analysis by the Washington Post.

About 250 people face charges of hindering the certification process. About 110 are still awaiting trial or sentencing. About 60 who already know their sentence faced only that charge. According to the WSJ, about 27 could be released soon.

Among the latter is Alexander Sheppard, who said, "As one of the 52 defendants where Obstruction was my ONLY felony charge, I feel that a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders."

"I will soon be going to resentencing, and I pray that my judge now sees this whole case for what it always has been: a complete and total sham," added Sheppard, who at age 21 was one of the first assailants to storm the Capitol.