Federal Appeals Court Rules Some Jan. 6 Protesters ‘Improperly’ Sentenced

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.


In a ruling that could have far-reaching implications for perhaps hundreds of people arrested following the Jan. 6, 2021, protest at the U.S. Capitol Building, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., ruled that at least some of them were “improperly” sentenced.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit determined that defendant and former Air Force officer Larry Brock’s sentence was flawed as it wrongly incorporated charges of “interference with the administration of justice.” Circuit Judge Millett, the author of the court’s opinion, stated that interference with Congress’ certification of the electoral votes in the 2020 presidential election does not warrant a sentence enhancement.

“Brock challenges both the district court’s interpretation of Section 1512(c)(2)’s elements and the sufficiency of the evidence to support that conviction. He also challenges the district court’s application of the three-level sentencing enhancement for interfering with the ‘administration of justice,’” Millett wrote.

The appeals court affirmed Brock’s conviction but disagreed with how he was sentenced, noting: “As for Brock’s sentence, we hold that the ‘administration of justice’ enhancement does not apply to interference with the legislative process of certifying electoral votes.”

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While other aspects of Larry Brock’s conviction were upheld, the higher court nevertheless ruled it would “vacate Brock’s sentence” while remanding the case back to the district court to resentence the single “interference” charge.

Other Jan. 6 defendants received longer sentences under the same enhancement, and now those cases could potentially be overturned as well.

“Larry Brock participated in the violent January 6th riot at the United States Capitol that forced the evacuation of members of Congress and their staff and prevented Congress’s certification of the 2020 presidential election until the next day. After a bench trial, the court convicted Brock of six crimes, including corruptly obstructing Congress’s certification of the electoral count under 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2),” Judge Millet wrote.

“At sentencing, the district court applied a three-level sentencing enhancement to Brock’s Section 1512(c)(2) conviction on the ground that Brock’s conduct resulted in ‘substantial interference with the administration of justice,’” he added.

Fox added:

Brock was initially arrested and charged on January 6, 2021, on just two charges: knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

The “interference” charge was added at a later date.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C., Brock was charged after he attended then-President Trump’s “Stop the Steal Rally” on the morning of January 6th.

He then marched with others to the U.S. Capitol, entering the building at approximately 2:24 p.m.

“When he arrived, Brock ascended the Upper West Terrace and entered the building through the door to the Senate Wing. After exiting, he attempted to open a set of secured doors marked ‘U.S. Senate’ with an unidentified set of keys,” the U.S. attorney’s office said in a filing statement.

The filing added: “Brock ultimately reached the Senate floor, where he spent approximately eight minutes walking around and looking at paperwork on desks. During this time, Brock told others not to sit in the Vice President’s chair or to be disrespectful, explaining that the rioters could not afford to ‘lose the IO war.’”

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He departed the Capitol Building at around 3:02 p.m.

“On his way out, he deescalated an altercation between another rioter and Capitol Police officers and guided the rioter out of the Capitol. Brock spent approximately 38 minutes inside the building,” the attorney’s office said.

For that, reports said, he was sentenced to two years in federal prison, thanks to the added enhancement. Supporters have claimed that Brock and many others were charged and sentenced despite exercising their First Amendment rights.

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