SCOTUS Rules On Sentencing Guidelines

In one of the most anticipated decisions of this term, the Supreme Court has handed a significant victory to multiple defendants prosecuted in connection with the events of January 6th. In a 6-3 decision, Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the opinion of the Court, holding that: “To prove a violation of §1512(c)(2), the Government must establish that the defendant impaired the availability or integrity for use in an official proceeding of records, documents, objects, or other things used in an official proceeding, or attempted to do so.”

This ruling overturns the broader interpretation previously adopted by the D.C. Circuit, which had allowed charges against Joseph Fischer to proceed. The case will now return to the D.C. Circuit for reassessment in light of this narrower interpretation.

Something else to note is who sided with who. Justice Jackon joined the majority, and Justice Barrett dissented with Sotomayor and Kagan. Jackson may be silly at times, but at least she evenly applies her stance on federal sentencing.

The core issue in the case was whether 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c), a statute that prohibits obstruction of congressional inquiries and investigations, extends to actions unrelated to investigations and evidence, such as the certification of an election. RedState’s Brittany Sheehan outlined the case comprehensively when it was argued before the Court in April.

in summary, Sheehan detailed how defendant Joseph Fischer challenged the Justice Department’s charges of “corruptly” obstructing, influencing, or impeding a congressional proceeding on January 6th. Fischer’s lawyers contended that the statute, enacted in 2002 primarily to address financial crimes, did not apply to his actions during the Capitol incident. They argued that the law, passed in the wake of the Enron scandal, was intended to combat accounting fraud and document destruction. Therefore, they maintained that Fischer’s alleged obstruction must be linked to such acts.

The statute in question has a two-part provision. The first part criminalizes the act of corruptly altering, destroying, or concealing records to frustrate official proceedings. The second part makes it a crime to “otherwise” corruptly obstruct, influence, or impede any official proceeding. Fischer’s lawyers argued that the first part should inform the second, meaning that the obstruction must relate to records or evidence destruction.

The Supreme Court’s ruling narrows the interpretation of the law, focusing on acts that directly impair the availability or integrity of records or objects used in official proceedings. This decision has far-reaching implications, potentially affecting hundreds of individuals charged under this statute for their actions on January 6th. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, the law carries a maximum sentence of 20 years and figures prominently in two of the federal charges against former President Donald Trump in his election interference case.


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