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Supreme Court Ruling Reflects Challenges of Jan. 6 Prosecutions

The Supreme Court’s decision on Friday that prosecutors had misused an obstruction law in charging hundreds of rioters who attacked the Capitol is the latest example of the persistent challenges the Justice Department has faced in grappling with the consequences of Jan. 6, 2021.

By and large, the department has succeeded over the past three years in moving against members of the pro-Trump mob who sought to disrupt the certification of President Biden’s victory on Jan. 6, and in winning convictions on seditious conspiracy charges against members of two far-right groups that were instrumental in stoking the violence that day, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.

But lacking any established legal blueprint for addressing an assault on the foundations of democracy, prosecutors sometimes got creative with the law. And that has left them vulnerable to second-guessing by the courts on how they have pursued criminal cases both against the rioters and against former President Donald J. Trump, and contributing to a long series of challenges and delays.

The court’s new ruling on the obstruction law will hardly cripple the Justice Department’s ability to go after the rioters, but it will constrain prosecutors by restricting the use of an important tool they have relied on to seek accountability against the most disruptive members of the mob.

Within weeks of the Capitol being breached, Michael Sherwin, then the top federal prosecutor in Washington, promised to wage a campaign of “shock and awe” against the rioters who had attacked the building.

Even though Mr. Sherwin said that sedition charges might be filed at some point against some of the defendants, his prosecutors ended up leaning much more heavily on the obstruction statute to go

Read more on nytimes.com