Supreme Court will hear a case that could undo Capitol riot charge against hundreds, including Trump


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Wednesday said it will hear an appeal that could upend hundreds of charges stemming from the Capitol riot, including against former President Donald Trump.

The justices will review an appellate ruling that revived a charge against three defendants accused of obstruction of an official proceeding. The charge refers to the disruption of Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential election victory over Trump.

That’s among four counts brought against Trump in special counsel Jack Smith’s case that accuses the 2024 Republican presidential primary front-runner of conspiring to overturn the results of his election loss. Trump is also charged with conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding.

The court’s decision to weigh in on the obstruction charge could threaten the start of Trump’s trial, currently scheduled for March 4. The justices separately are considering whether to rule quickly on Trump’s claim that he can’t be prosecuted for actions taken within his role as president. A federal judge already has rejected that argument.

The obstruction charge has been brought against more than 300 defendants in the massive federal prosecution following the deadly insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in a bid to keep Biden, a Democrat, from taking the White House.

A lower court judge had dismissed the charge against three defendants, ruling it didn’t cover their conduct.

U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols found that prosecutors stretched the law beyond its scope to inappropriately apply it in these cases. Nichols ruled that a defendant must have taken “some action with respect to a document, record or other object” to obstruct an official proceeding under the law.

The Justice Department challenged that ruling, and the appeals court in Washington agreed with prosecutors in April that Nichols’ interpretation of the law was too limited.

Other defendants, including Trump, are separately challenging the use of the charge.

One defendant, Garret Miller, has since pleaded guilty to other charges and was sentenced to 38 months in prison. Miller, who’s from the Dallas area, could still face prosecution on the obstruction charge. The other defendants are Joseph Fischer, who’s from Boston, and Edward Jacob Lang, of New York’s Hudson Valley.

More than 1,200 people have been charged with federal crimes stemming from the riot, and more than 650 defendants have pleaded guilty.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court at https://apnews.com/hub/us-supreme-court.



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