In the first criminal cases involving the 2021 insurrection to reach the nation's highest court, three men implicated in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol have asked the Supreme Court to dismiss a portion of their indictment and the possibility of an extra 20 years in prison.
If the justices agree to hear the appeals, the decisions could affect a portion of the federal indictment against former President Donald Trump for his efforts to invalidated the confirmed results of the 2020 election, as well as hundreds of others charged in the deadly riot that occurred across the street from the Supreme Court more than two years ago, as USA Today reported.
Edward Lang, Joseph Fischer, and Garret Miller assert that prosecutors exceeded their authority by charging them with a federal crime on obstructing "official proceedings." The measure was enacted in 2002 in response to the Enron financial collapse.
Lang documented his participation in the January 6 attack on social media, and Miller gained attention after the disturbance for threatening New York Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
More than 200 individuals have been charged with violating that same obstruction law in connection with Jan. 6, according to the Justice Department.
The former president himself is one of them: This allegation was included in the indictment handed down by a grand jury last month following an investigation by special counsel Jack Smith.
A judgment in favor of the defendants by the Supreme Court would undermine the charges in the other cases, including Trump's.
The Supreme Court has examined a number of legal issues surrounding the January 6 attack.
The justices previously refused to prevent a House committee investigating the attack from obtaining documents from the Trump administration. Several months later, the court denied an emergency appeal filed by Kelli Ward, the former chairwoman of the Arizona Republican Party, in opposition to a subpoena for the committee's phone records.
However, the new cases involve defendants fighting criminal accusations for the first time.
The Justice Department asserts that the counting of electoral ballots, which was halted as lawmakers fled for safety and police fought rioters, constitutes a "official proceeding." Prosecutors assert that the law would encompass lying to a grand jury or "burning a building to conceal the bodies" of murder victims.
"It also includes storming the Capitol to derail a congressional proceeding," the department told a federal appeals court in 2013.
However, the defendants argue that the provision was intended to prevent individuals, such as those involved in the Enron scandal, from tampering with evidence.
In a court document, Fischer referred to the offense at issue in the cases as a "anti-shredding" statute. The attorneys claim that their actions on January 6 had nothing to do with this.