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Appeals Court Rules Some Jan. 6 Defendants Improperly SentencedDozens of Jan. 6 cases might be impacted after the court’s ruling on Friday.

An appeals court in Washington unanimously ruled that a Jan. 6 defendant’s sentence was improperly enhanced, a move that could impact numerous other Jan. 6 cases.

On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that Larry Brock, who was convicted for a range of crimes related to Jann. 6, improperly had additional charges of “interference with the administration of justice.” The judge who wrote the court’s opinion wrote that the charge doesn’t apply to a sentencing enhancement, however, and struck it down.

“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,” wrote the judge, Patricia Millett.

The judge, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, concluded that any interference with Congress’ certification of the 2020 electoral votes isn’t tantamount to a sentencing enhancement.

“Because Section 2J1.2’s text, commentary, and context establish that the ‘administration of justice’ does not extend to Congress’s counting and certification of electoral college votes, the district court erred in applying Section 2J1.2(b)(2)’s three-level sentencing enhancement to Brock’s Section 1512(c)(2) conviction,” the judge wrote.

The judges, in siding with Mr. Brock, wrote that Congress’ function on Jan. 6 was not judicial but was only a part of the 2020 presidential election process.

“Taken as a whole, the multi-step process of certifying electoral college votes—as important to our democratic system of government as it is—bears little resemblance to the traditional understanding of the administration of justice as the judicial or quasi-judicial investigation or determination of individual rights,” the panel concluded.

Law enforcement officials who were there at the Capitol on that day, they added, were “to protect the lawmakers and their process, not to investigate individuals’ rights or to enforce Congress’s certification decision.”

“After all,” the judges wrote, “law enforcement is present for security purposes for a broad variety of governmental proceedings that do not involve the ‘administration of justice’—presidential inaugurations, for example, and the pardoning of the Thanksgiving Turkey.”

Now, Mr. Brock’s sentence under the statute will be vacated and will be remanded to the district court for resentencing, according to Friday’s order.

But it’s not clear whether Mr. Brock’s sentence will be reduced or whether it will apply to a number of other people who were charged with interference in the administration of justice related to the Capitol breach. However, the ruling could impact plea negotiations for future Jan. 6 defendants who are charged with the felony.

Dozens of Jan. 6 defendants have been convicted and sentenced for interference in the administration of justice, according to data provided by the Department of Justice. It may mean that their time in prison and other penalties need to be reduced.

The Justice Department, meanwhile, has often asked judges to apply the enhancement charges to the defendants, saying that the Congressional session on Jan. 6, 2021, to count electoral votes and certify the election was the same as a judicial proceeding.

But Mr. Brock’s lawyers successfully argued in an appeal that the charges shouldn’t impact his sentence after he was given a two-year prison term in 2023. At the time, the lower court judge who convicted and sentenced Mr. Brock calculated that the obstruction charge meant he should spend more time in jail.

The court made the sentencing decision as it simultaneously upheld Mr. Brock’s felony conviction regarding his activity on Jan. 6, 2021, when thousands breached the U.S. Capitol during the certification of the election.

During court arguments in September, Mr. Brock’s lawyer noted that he committed no violence on Jan. 6 and said the man believed the 2020 election was stolen. “Mr. Brock thought he was acting righteously, patriotically and with a eminently proper purpose,” attorney Charles Burnham said at the time, according to reports.

That argument was rejected by the panel of judges on Friday. “Brock participated in a riot that sought to overturn the 2020 presidential election by force, and that he was himself prepared to take violent action to achieve that goal,” the judges wrote.

Because of his social media posts about the election, the court added, “Where a defendant announces his intent to use violence to obstruct a congressional proceeding, comes equipped for violence, and then actually obstructs that proceeding, the evidence supports a finding that he acted with an impermissible purpose or knowledge of the wrongfulness of his actions.”

Some Jan. 6 defendants have argued in court motions that the law have been improperly applied to charge them with felonies. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in a Jan. 6 defendants’ appeal in April on the application of the law, which could also impact special counsel Jack Smith’s case against former President Donald Trump as he faces two obstruction charges in Washington.

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