US Supreme Court raises bar for obstruction charges, siding with Jan. 6 rioters

The US Supreme Court on Friday overturned a lower court ruling that had enabled prosecutors to pursue charges of obstruction against defendants in the January 6, 2021 Capitol siege. The high court's new ruling could have implications for the federal criminal case against former president Donald Trump related to the riots, which aimed to overturn his loss in the 2020 presidential election.

The Supreme Court on Friday made it harder to charge Capitol riot defendants with obstruction, a charge used in hundreds of prosecutions and also faced by former President Donald Trump.

The justices ruled 6-3 that the charge of obstructing an official proceeding, enacted in 2002 in response to the financial scandal that brought down Enron Corp., must include proof that defendants tried to tamper with or destroy documents. Only some of the people who violently attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, fall into that category.

The decision could be used as fodder for claims by Trump and his Republican allies that the Justice Department has treated the Capitol riot defendants unfairly.

It's unclear how the court's decision will affect the case against Trump in Washington, although special counsel Jack Smith has said the charges faced by the former president would not be affected.

Fischer is among about 350 people who have been charged with obstruction. Some pleaded guilty to or were convicted of lesser charges.


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