Jan 17, 2023

A First: January 6 Defendant Acquitted of Widely Used 'Obstruction' Charge

The Department of Justice failed to prove that Joshua Black knowingly sought to block Congress’s certification of the 2020 election.
A First: January 6 Defendant Acquitted of Widely Used 'Obstruction' Charge
Photo by Colin Lloyd / Unsplash

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Written by Hudson Crozier

What happened: A federal judge found Alabama man Joshua Black not guilty of “obstruction of an official proceeding” for his role in the protest at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Why it matters: The obstruction charge, which is based on a law that has never been applied to protests before, is one of the most common charges against January 6 defendants. Even peaceful protesters have been charged with—and some convicted of—this felony, as Upward News has covered. Black is the first January 6 defendant to be acquitted of it, which could affect future cases.

Not enough evidence: The Obama-appointed judge said that the Department of Justice (DOJ) failed to prove that Black knowingly sought to obstruct Congress’s certification of the 2020 election. She still found him guilty of other offenses, including a felony for carrying a knife inside the Capitol building.

Big picture: As of now, the DOJ has charged over 970 people for their alleged roles in the Capitol riot. Ninety-nine percent of cases have led to a conviction on at least one count, though most end with lighter sentences than what the DOJ demands. Last month, President Joe Biden signed Congress’s spending bill, increasing the DOJ’s budget for handling January 6 cases, which could eventually surpass 2,000.

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