Federal judge dismisses obstruction charges in January 6 case

US District Judge Carl Nichols; Garret Miller in the crowd at the Capitol on January 6

US District Judge Carl Nichols; Garret Miller in the Capitol crowd on January 6 (via US District Court and FBI court records).

A federal judge became the first to dismiss criminal corruption charges against a defendant on January 6, infractions from 10 of his colleagues, who authorized the same charges against others in the government’s extensive prosecution of participants in violations of the United States Capitol.

United States District Judge Carl Nicholsperson appointed by Donald Trumpgranted Garrett MillerOffer to dismiss some of the lawsuits brought against him on Monday. According to prosecutors, Miller shoved police officers at the Capitol to get inside when Trump supporters violently overpowered police who swarmed the building to prevent Congress from certifying. Joe Bidenwon the 2020 presidential election.

Prosecutors say Miller posted plans to travel to Washington on Facebook. In those posts, Miller allegedly predicted that “crazy things” would happen and that “civil wars could begin.”[.]“He is also accused of threatening to assassinate the Democrat. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York, and, according to prosecutors, called for the death of a Black police officer he believes was responsible for the shooting. Ashli ​​Babbittwho was killed when she tried to break into the Speaker’s lobby with other rioters.

Miller, like many other defendants on January 6, challenged the Justice Department’s charge that he violated federal corruption statutes that carry penalties of up to 20 years in prison.

that regulation, 18 USC 1512read (in the relevant section) the following:

(c) Anyone who is corrupt –

(1) alter, destroy, mutilate, or conceal a record, document, or other object, or attempt to do so, with the intent to impair the object’s integrity or availability for use in a formal proceeding; or

(2) obstruct, influence or impede any official proceeding or attempt to do so,

shall be punished under this title or imprisoned for not more than 20 years, or both.

Federal prosecutors used this language against a number of defendants on January 6, including Guy Refittwho is sentenced on it and other charges on Tuesday.

Nichols: Miller “Not Allegedly” Taken Action Under Regulations

At least 10 judges on DC have dismissed the defendants’ motive to dismiss the allegation. Movements generally oppose the statute on three grounds: (1) that certification by the Electoral College is not a “official procedure”, (2) the statute is not intended to address the respondent’s conduct, and ( 3) that the word “corruption” is ambiguously unconstitutional.

Nichols, a Trump appointee, agreed with his colleagues that the Electoral College certification was a formal procedure, but set it apart from other judges after that point.

Nichols’ ruling was based on a careful analysis of the use of the word “other” in the statute. While other judges in the DC district have determined that “otherwise” covers a range of alleged acts, Nichols has gone the other way. He said the position of the word, other sections and subsections of the corruption act, and the legislative history of section (c)(2) all suggest that Congress intends to prohibit actions similar to the standard. destroy documents and other evidence.

According to Nichols, subsection (c)(2) can be understood in three ways.

“It is possible that subsections (c) (1) and (c) (2) are completely unrelated (although this is not a very plausible explanation), Nichols writes. “Subsection (c) (1) may contain only examples of the much broader prohibition in subsection (c) (2). Or subsection (c) (2) may be limited by subsection (c) (1). ”

Nichols says that the third interpretation “seems to present the least amount of interpretation problems” but notes that it is not “very clear” that it is correct. To address that, Nichols considered the “statutory context” and legislative history of subsection (c)(2).

Nichols noted that section 1512(c) was enacted as part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 in the wake of the Enron scandal, when it was reported that the auditing firm Arthur Anderson had systematically destroyed the accounts. documents potentially incriminating Enron.

“To the extent it is relevant, the weight of this legislative history does not align with the position of government here,” Nichols writes. “It shows that, in the wake of the Enron scandal, Congress was faced with a very specific loophole: that existing criminal statutes provided for causing or inciting others to destroy documents. is illegal, but not doing so is illegal. mine. Congress closed that loop by passing subsection (c), and nothing in legislative history suggests a broader purpose than that.”

Nichols determined that because Miller was not charged with tearing up papers and destroying documents, he could not be charged with “corruption” in trying to block a formal Congressional proceeding.

“Therefore, the Court concludes that 1512(c)(2) must be construed to be limited by subsection (c)(1), and therefore requires the respondent to take certain action relating to documents, records, or other objects in Nichols writing. “However, Miller is not accused of taking such action.”

According to Nichols, nothing in the indictment “alleges, let alone implies, that Miller engaged in certain actions involving documents, records, or other subjects to corrupt, obstruct, or influence to Congressional certification of the electoral vote”, and the fee must therefore be abolished.

An unclear transitional path: Impact on other prosecutions on January 6

Nichols did not address Miller’s third argument about whether the use of the term “corruption” in the statute was ambiguously unconstitutional. Although he did not explain why, it is likely that because Nichols determined that Miller’s conduct was not covered by the statute, he did not need to mention whether the statute was ambiguous. unconstitutional or not.

Notably, Nichols did not address most of the rulings of his colleagues but reached the opposite conclusion. He did not mention the judgment of the US District Judge Dabney Friedrichanother Trump appointee who made the first denial of the offer to fire defendant on January 6. In that case, in Ronald Sandlin Friedrich found that “[b]Based on the plain text, broader context, and weight of jurisdiction, the Court concluded that § 1512(c)(2) covers a broader range of obstructionist conduct than the defendants argue. “

Nine other judges agreed, including the judge overseeing ‘s case Patrick Montgomery and Brady Knowltonthe case that Nichols cited in his opinion though the judge in that case—Randolph Moss– reached the same conclusion as Friedrich and other judges who rejected similar motives for dismissal.

It is unclear what this means for similar prosecutions on January 6 by the government. A spokesman for the Justice Department declined to comment, citing the department’s policy not to comment on pending cases.

The federal obstruction charge sent several high-profile January 6 defendants to prison; both Jacob Chansleyalso known as “QAnon shaman”, and Scott Fairlamb was sentenced to 41 months in prison after pleading guilty.

Nichols’ ruling is a rare victory for Miller in his case so far. Nichols detained Miller by determining that “no conditions of release could reasonably guarantee the safety of the community for Miller’s pre-trial release.” Nichols also denied Miller’s moves and accused the government of selective prosecution.

Miller still faces other serious charges according to the indictment. Those acts include disrupting civil order, assaulting police, and threatening Congressman Ocasio-Cortez.

Read Nichols’ decision below:

[Images via U.S. District Court, FBI court filings.]

Is there a trick we should know? [email protected]

https://lawandcrime.com/u-s-capitol-breach/federal-judge-departs-from-rulings-by-10-peers-tosses-obstruction-charge-in-jan-6-case/ Federal judge dismisses obstruction charges in January 6 case

James Brien

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