Potential Ripple Effect on Numerous January 6 Cases

The Supreme Court of the United States is currently considering a petition from a defendant involved in the January 6 case—a petition that could potentially impact numerous other cases. Edward Lang, a J6 defendant, has filed a petition for writ of certiorari, seeking review of his case by the Supreme Court after it was examined in a lower court. Lang asserts that he attended the Capitol grounds protest on January 6 and found himself caught up in a riot, wherein he had to defend himself from harm. His claim is that, in his effort to protect himself, he engaged in an altercation with a police officer during the riot.

The SCOTUS decision “will influence scores, if not hundreds of prosecutions arising from the riot at the Capitol on January 6, 2021,” the petition claims. According to the legal filing, the court should review the case “to rein in prosecutors” who are erroneously applying federal statutes in a “potentially dangerous manner.”

The writ claims that individuals who previously felt free to exercise their First Amendment rights by attending protests to petition for the redress of grievances may now feel restrained. “Will they too be swept into the fray and accused of acting corruptly if the protest turns violent?”

The attorney representing Lang Norman Pattis has expressed shock at the government’s manipulation of the federal penal code in the January 6 cases, criticizing their handling of the situation.

 

According to the petitioners, failure to intervene could result in numerous Americans receiving significant prison sentences for merely expressing their views at a protest that escalated into a volatile confrontation. This, they assert, puts the future of the First Amendment in serious jeopardy.

 

Before his trial, Lang submitted a motion to dismiss the obstruction charge, which carries a 20-year prison sentence. Initially, the D.C. District court granted the motion, but this decision was later overturned by an appeals court. A subsequent request for a rehearing was denied.

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The appeal is based on the Fifth Amendment, which declares that individuals cannot be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. Lang, who has been in custody for over 900 days without a trial, asserts that his case could have implications for potential obstruction charges against former President Donald Trump. Timing is crucial, as Trump, a prominent figure in the Republican Party, may negotiate plea deals for other charges but faces significant consequences if found guilty of obstructing Congress.

 

At the heart of the matter is the alleged misapplication of 18 U.S. Code 1512(c)(2), pertaining to the obstruction of official proceedings with a “corrupt purpose.” Authorities argue that the disorderly conduct, allegedly orchestrated by the late President Donald Trump, aimed to impede the Electoral College voting and unlawfully maintain his power.

The legal writ notes that there hasn’t been any convincing justification from the prosecution for why rioters temporarily obstructing the Electoral College vote count would result in Donald Trump keeping his position. (Additionally, pipe bomb threats at the RNC and DNC headquarters initially prevented the Electoral College session from continuing.)

Lang allegedly engaged in a two-hour-long battle with police officers in the Capitol, repeatedly hitting them with a bat and brandishing a stolen police shield. His 13-count indictment claimed that he used a bat and shield in a restricted area of the Capitol, assaulted six Metropolitan Police Officers, hurt one of them physically, and engaged in disorderly conduct.

The District Court initially granted Lang’s motion to dismiss the obstruction charge under, but the government appealed and the Appellate Court sided with the government in a split decision. The mandate was only temporarily suspended for the obstruction count after a motion for rehearing was denied. On connected counts, Lang is due to go on trial this fall.

If the indictment’s reliance on the charge of obstructing official proceedings violates the rule against an excessively broad application of a statute, that is the main question at stake in Lang’s petition. Arguments are made that the government’s use of this statute in the January 6 riot prosecutions represents a significant expansion of its scope and conflicts with earlier readings of the law. This broad interpretation has drawn fire for being both politically motivated and an abuse of the law.

As per 18 U.S.C. Section 111(a)(1), Lang is facing charges for assaulting specific officers, as well as misdemeanor charges for entering Capitol Grounds and behaving in an obnoxious or disruptive manner. The penalties for these offenses are comparatively less severe than those for obstruction.

 

In conclusion, it is argued that prosecuting Lang for obstruction of official proceedings represents government overreach. Concerns arise regarding the impact on free speech, public demonstrations, and the broader implications for American democracy.

 

The legal filing states, “In the District of Columbia, prosecutors now possess the power to prosecute anyone present at a public demonstration that escalates. This result instills fear in those who would otherwise exercise their right to petition for redress of grievances, assemble in public spaces, and voice concerns about public affairs.” The filing further notes, “Such a regime poses a greater threat to American democracy than a few hours of unrest on January 6, 2021,” as stated by one author.

 

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