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Tuesday April 23, 2024

Courts could reduce sentences of over 100 US Capitol rioters

The 3-0 decision could also force district judges in Washington, D.C. to recalculate and perhaps shorten sentences for other rioters

By REUTERS
March 03, 2024
In this image, Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they try to storm the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. — AFP
In this image, Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they try to storm the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. — AFP

WASHINGTON: More than 100 people convicted of joining the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol by Donald Trump’s supporters could have their sentences shortened, following a federal appeals court ruling on Friday.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said defendants who were implicated in obstructing the work of the U.S. Congress should not have been given longer sentences for having interfered with the “administration of justice.”

Friday’s decision upheld the conviction of Larry Brock, a retired Air Force officer who wore combat gear and carried zip-tie handcuffs when he and others loyal to the former U.S. president stormed the Capitol, but required that he be resentenced.

The 3-0 decision could also force district judges in Washington, D.C. to recalculate and perhaps shorten sentences for other rioters charged with felony obstruction.

In an email, the U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment on the decision, but said more than 100 defendants’ cases could be affected. Brock’s lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider the felony obstruction issue next month, when it hears arguments on whether Jan. 6 rioters can be charged with obstructing an official proceeding.

A decision from that court could also affect Trump, who faces obstruction charges in the indictment accusing the Republican of plotting to remain in power despite losing the 2020 election to Democrat Joe Biden.

Brock, 57, of Grapevine, Texas, was sentenced last March to two years in prison by U.S. District Judge John Bates, who had found him guilty in a non-jury trial on six criminal counts.

Federal sentencing guidelines recommend that judges apply the “administration of justice” enhancement to defendants who disrupt judicial proceedings.

Bates, however, agreed with some other judges on his court that its application could be broader.

Writing for the appeals court, however, Circuit Judge Patricia Millett rejected the Justice Department’s argument that Congress’ plan on Jan. 6, 2021 to certify the election results was the equivalent of a judicial proceeding.