Supreme Court justices criticize Trump case's Jan. 6 obstruction charge

 April 17, 2024

Conservative Supreme Court justices appeared broadly sympathetic on April 16 to a former police officer accused with violating an accounting reform legislation after entering the United States Capitol for four minutes on January 6, 2021.

The case is being keenly followed because the Supreme Court's ruling might impact hundreds of Jan. 6 prosecutions, including the Jan. 6 case against former President Donald Trump, as The Epoch Times reported.

Following the Capitol breach on January 6, 2021, Joseph Fischer of Jonestown, Pennsylvania, was indicted for several counts, including obstructing an official process under Enron-era obstruction law, 18 U.S. Code Section 1512(c). Convictions under this clause can result in 20 years in prison.

The Statute in Question

The wording of 1512(c) focuses on documentation and making it available for official processes.

Section 1512(c) states: “Whoever corruptly (1) alters, destroys, mutilates, or conceals a record, document, or other object, or attempts to do so, with the intent to impair the object’s integrity or availability for use in an official proceeding; or (2) otherwise obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.”

The indictment relates to the alleged obstruction of legislative certification of the 2020 presidential election results, which set the way for President Joe Biden's inauguration two weeks later.

Fischer claims that he was wrongfully accused under Section 1512(c), a provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act aimed at combating Wall Street malfeasance.

The legislation followed fraud-related crises at Enron Corp. and other big firms.

Previous Legal Application

Enron used questionable accounting procedures to conceal declining profitability and overstate earnings, and its workers allegedly began destroying papers when they knew that indictments were on the way.

Some of the defendants who arrived at the Capitol after Congress was evacuated on January 6, 2021, were charged with impeding an official proceeding.

Several defendants have unsuccessfully contended at trial that they couldn't have obstructed Congress because they arrived at the Capitol after legislators had left.

Fischer claims he left the complex before Congress attempted to certify the election and was in Maryland at the time of the security breach.

Fischer's Defense

Legal experts, including Fischer's defense counsel, have criticized the Biden administration for using the law against defendants, including former President Donald Trump, claiming it is an unsuitable vehicle for prosecution.

Lawyers claim that the accounting reform law under which Fischer and others have been prosecuted is being utilized by the Department of Justice to prosecute people who were exercising their First Amendment right to challenge the congressional certification of election results.

During oral arguments on April 16, Fischer's attorney, Jeffrey Green, argued that the Biden administration erred in charging his client under 1512(c), which was supposed to be used primarily for evidence tampering.

He stated that Congress passed the provision to prevent evidence destruction.

“The January 6th prosecutions demonstrate that there are a host of felony and misdemeanor crimes that cover the alleged conduct,” the lawyer said. “A Sarbanes-Oxley-based Enron-driven evidence tampering statute is not one of them.”

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