Appeal To SCOTUS Could Derail January 6 Prosecution

The case would threaten the Biden administration’s ability to legally target its political opponents.

Written by Hudson Crozier

What’s happening: New York man Edward Lang is asking the Supreme Court to toss a felony charge he’s facing for his actions at the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot. The charge, “obstruction of an official proceeding,” is one of the most common in January 6 cases, but President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice is accused of abusing it. Having spent over 900 days in jail without a trial, Lang believes his petition is one way to fight the “persecution” of conservatives.

For context: The obstruction charge comes from a 2002 law passed in response to a high-profile corporate scandal. It normally applies to offenses such as tampering with witnesses and destroying evidence. The DOJ is using it against political protesters for the first time in history, threatening them with up to 20 years in prison. Most courts in January 6 cases, including the two that ruled against Lang, have not questioned the charge, and January 6 protesters are almost always convicted of it.

The effects: Most January 6 protesters arrived at the Capitol after rioters had already caused Congress to evacuate. But hundreds, including nonviolent protesters whom police let inside, have been accused of felony obstruction for being part of a “collective” attack, as the DOJ describes it. Lang’s attorneys argue that this threatens First Amendment rights, as anyone who happens to be “at a public demonstration gone awry” can be prosecuted.

Why it matters: It is suspected that the DOJ will charge former President Donald Trump with felony obstruction based on the debunked claim that he incited violence on January 6. By taking Lang’s case, the Supreme Court could limit the Biden administration’s ability to target its political enemies. It could even impact Trump’s presidential campaign and the 2024 election if it helps him avoid prison time.

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