The SCOTUS decision “will influence scores, if not hundreds of prosecutions arising from the riot at the Capitol on January 6, 2021,” the petition claims. According to the legal filing, the court should review the case “to rein in prosecutors” who are erroneously applying federal statutes in a “potentially dangerous manner.”
The writ claims that individuals who previously felt free to exercise their First Amendment rights by attending protests to petition for the redress of grievances may now feel restrained. “Will they too be swept into the fray and accused of acting corruptly if the protest turns violent?”
The attorney representing Lang Norman Pattis has expressed shock at the government’s manipulation of the federal penal code in the January 6 cases, criticizing their handling of the situation.
According to the petitioners, failure to intervene could result in numerous Americans receiving significant prison sentences for merely expressing their views at a protest that escalated into a volatile confrontation. This, they assert, puts the future of the First Amendment in serious jeopardy.
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The appeal is based on the Fifth Amendment, which declares that individuals cannot be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. Lang, who has been in custody for over 900 days without a trial, asserts that his case could have implications for potential obstruction charges against former President Donald Trump. Timing is crucial, as Trump, a prominent figure in the Republican Party, may negotiate plea deals for other charges but faces significant consequences if found guilty of obstructing Congress.
The legal writ notes that there hasn’t been any convincing justification from the prosecution for why rioters temporarily obstructing the Electoral College vote count would result in Donald Trump keeping his position. (Additionally, pipe bomb threats at the RNC and DNC headquarters initially prevented the Electoral College session from continuing.)
Lang allegedly engaged in a two-hour-long battle with police officers in the Capitol, repeatedly hitting them with a bat and brandishing a stolen police shield. His 13-count indictment claimed that he used a bat and shield in a restricted area of the Capitol, assaulted six Metropolitan Police Officers, hurt one of them physically, and engaged in disorderly conduct.
The District Court initially granted Lang’s motion to dismiss the obstruction charge under, but the government appealed and the Appellate Court sided with the government in a split decision. The mandate was only temporarily suspended for the obstruction count after a motion for rehearing was denied. On connected counts, Lang is due to go on trial this fall.
If the indictment’s reliance on the charge of obstructing official proceedings violates the rule against an excessively broad application of a statute, that is the main question at stake in Lang’s petition. Arguments are made that the government’s use of this statute in the January 6 riot prosecutions represents a significant expansion of its scope and conflicts with earlier readings of the law. This broad interpretation has drawn fire for being both politically motivated and an abuse of the law.
As per 18 U.S.C. Section 111(a)(1), Lang is facing charges for assaulting specific officers, as well as misdemeanor charges for entering Capitol Grounds and behaving in an obnoxious or disruptive manner. The penalties for these offenses are comparatively less severe than those for obstruction.
In conclusion, it is argued that prosecuting Lang for obstruction of official proceedings represents government overreach. Concerns arise regarding the impact on free speech, public demonstrations, and the broader implications for American democracy.
Supreme Court Considers Historic Petition: Potential Ripple Effect on Numerous January 6 Cases |
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