DOJ asks for extra time to respond to Supreme Court obstruction ruling

By Jen Krausz on
 July 9, 2024

The U.S. Justice Department has asked several judges for more time to figure out how to proceed on multiple cases involving obstruction charges that the Supreme Court ruled were invalid, including charges against former President Donald Trump.

Many of the judges are based in Washington, D.C., the jurisdiction where the January 6 defendants have been charged. Prosecutors are asking for one to two months of extra time to figure out how they want to proceed on pending charges and existing convictions.

One specific case involves Ronald Sandlin, who is serving a more than five-year sentence for obstruction and assaulting a police officer.

Judge Dabney Friedrich has ordered prosecutors in the case to come up with new recommendations for charges and sentencing in light of Fischer V. United States, which ruled that obstruction must be limited to destroying physical documents that could serve as evidence.

"Assessing the impacts"

Prosecutors asked for 30 extra days to figure out their game plan.

“The government is actively assessing the impacts of Fischer on Jan. 6 cases in a variety of procedural postures,” they said.

They admitted that the obstruction charge may not be appropriate under the narrower Supreme Court ruling.

“The government will also analyze whether it would still be able to meet its burden under the narrower interpretation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2) articulated in Fischer, and whether Fischer alters the government’s position on the defendant’s sentence,” prosecutors wrote.

Not all judges are willing to deal with the delays the DOJ is asking for, however.

What to do

In another case against Tara Stottlemeyer, prosecutors asked for 60 days to figure out whether to vacate her conviction on obstruction.

She has already served her jail sentence for breaking into several offices and rifling through papers but is still on probation.

Prosecutors noted that the obstruction charges were not wholly negated and that the DOJ needs time “so that this process may take place efficiently and thoughtfully.”

In that case, Judge Timothy Kelly denied the DOJ's request to have until September and told them to get their case together by July 30.

Judge Tanya Chutkan will also have to rule on whether or not the charges against former President Donald Trump can go forward, if DOJ prosecutors still try to make them stick.

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