Now nearly two years removed from the events of January 6th, 2021, and we are only slightly closer to seeing the end of the legal road for those involved.
While most of the nation’s attention has been turned toward the possibility that former President Donald Trump may be indicted by the Department of Justice for his role in the protest, a number of defendants who actually participated in the event just received a definitive new ruling from a federal judge.
The Jan. 6 select committee’s finding that Donald Trump lured followers to storm the Capitol does not absolve them of legal responsibility for their actions, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, the first opinion to cite the congressional panel’s criminal referrals of the former president.
U.S. District Court Judge John Bates cited the select committee’s report and criminal referrals to swat down a Jan. 6 defendant’s claim that he believed Trump had authorized him and other rioters to enter the Capitol when he urged the crowd to march down Pennsylvania Avenue.
Bates, an appointee of President George W. Bush, ruled that defendant Alexander Sheppard should be prohibited from making the “public authority” defense because there’s simply no evidence Trump told his followers that entering the restricted grounds of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was legal. In fact, his incendiary rhetoric — especially telling his supporters to “fight like hell” — may suggest Trump was asking them to break the law, Bates said.
His words “could signal to protesters that entering the Capitol and stopping the certification would be unlawful,” Bates found.
“Thus, the conclusions reached here — that even if protesters believed they were following orders, they were not misled about the legality of their actions … is consistent with the Select Committee’s findings,” Bates wrote.
A number of January 6th defendants have suggested that Trump’s speech was an order to march on the Capitol, and that the orders of the Commander in Chief supersede any other legal barriers.