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Case in Missouri, Kansas January 6 challenged by the Supreme Court

John George Todd III stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021. A jury of his peers in the US District Court for the District of Columbia found the Blue Springs man guilty on six counts, including two felonies, and a judge sentenced him to five years in prison.

But the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday challenged the jury’s verdict and verdict, when it ruled 5-4 to limit the scope of a specific charge against Todd and more than 350 others who entered the Capitol and interfered with the certification of the 2020 presidential election.

The charge — obstructing an official proceeding — was created by Congress in response to major accounting scandals in the early 2000s. In an opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the court ruled that the charge can only be brought if the defendant “impaired the availability or integrity for use in an official proceeding of records, documents, objects, or as we previously explained, other things used in the proceeding or tried to do so.”

Roberts said the Justice Department’s current, broad interpretation of the law could set a precedent for the government to bring serious, felony charges against any activist who tries to protest at the Capitol.

“The new interpretation would criminalize a wide range of prosaic behavior and subject both activists and lobbyists to decades in prison,” Roberts wrote. “As the Solicitor General acknowledged at oral argument, under the government’s interpretation, a peaceful protester could conceivably be prosecuted under ยง1512(c)(2) and sentenced to 20 years in prison.”

The court’s decision complicates hundreds of cases involving people associated with the Capitol riots, including a federal indictment of former President Donald Trump brought by special counsel Jack Smith.

Trump has yet to stand trial on the charges โ€” the Supreme Court is currently deciding whether a former president maintains immunity after he leaves office. But most of the nine defendants from Missouri and Kansas charged with obstructing official proceedings have either pleaded guilty or gone to trial.

Four have been found guilty of the charge – Todd; Nicholas Kennedy, of Sikeston; Matthew Loganbill, of Versailles; and William Chrestman, of Olathe. Four others pleaded guilty to lesser charges. Only one, William Pope, of Topeka, has not yet been arraigned.

Roger Roots, an attorney representing Todd, said Friday he would move quickly to try to overturn his client’s conviction.

“The Supreme Court definitely got it right,” Roots said. “The Justice Department chose to use the 1512 statute against Jan. 6 solely for the purpose of obtaining long sentences. The statute had never before been used against political protesters who disrupt the functions of government. I am pleased that the Supreme Court recognized that the DOJ twisted the statute out of context.”

The verdict is expected to complicate the sentences for both Kennedy and Loganbill. Kennedy is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 28, and Loganbill’s sentencing was delayed until after the Fischer decision came down.

Pope filed a motion to continue his trial from the scheduled date of July 22, but the request was denied. Among his arguments for doing so, he said, was that “there is a strong possibility that the Supreme Court ruling will change the outcome of my case.”

It is unclear what will happen to Chrestman, who was sentenced to 55 months in prison and will be released on December 18. He has been in custody since his arrest in February 2021. His lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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