A judge ruled on Friday that the Justice Department could not use a contractor to organize grand jury materials connected to more than 500 people charged in the Jan. 6 Capitol building riot.
“The term ‘government personnel’ is best construed, in accord with the bulk of the district court case law, as including only employees of public governmental entities,” U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell said in the ruling.
“Deloitte, a private firm contracted by the government on a non-exclusive basis, is a private rather than a public governmental entity, and its staff are employees of the firm rather than the government.” Howell added.
The Justice Department had argued they had included safeguard to protect against the court’s concerns. However, the ruling noted these actions were not sufficient.
“The safeguards built into the government’s contract with Deloitte therefore do not assuage the concern that bulk disclosure to this private entity will undermine the interests of grand jury secrecy, particularly in such a high-profile and historically significant investigation,” Howell wrote.
The ruling will slow down the effort to prosecute those involved in the Jan. 6 events. According to PJ Media, “Court watchers believe that the ruling will push back most of the rioters’ trials well into 2022.”
Politico added, “The ruling Friday could complicate and drag out the prosecutions by requiring government personnel to be more involved in aspects of the process of sharing evidence with defense attorneys.”
The decision certainly favors the protesters, offering an extended period as well as a different organization involved in processing the evidence. The longer time period may also allow public opinion to change, as people become more focused on the 2022 midterms than on what happened on Jan. 6.