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Appeals Court Says Judges Wrongly Lengthened Jan. 6 Sentences

A federal appeals court panel ruled Friday that Jan. 6, 2021, defendants who obstructed Congress’ work had their sentences improperly lengthened by judges who determined that they had interfered with the “administration of justice,” Politico reports. The decision could force judges in Washington, D.C. to recalculate, and perhaps reduce, the sentences for dozens of Jan. 6 rioters convicted of felony obstruction for their roles in the attack on the Capitol that threatened the transfer of power three years ago. Federal sentencing guidelines encourage judges to apply the “administration of justice” enhancement to defendants who disrupt judicial proceedings like grand jury investigations or court hearings. The enhancement can increase recommended sentences by more than a year.


The Justice Department has routinely asked judges to apply the enhancement to defendants who stormed the Capitol, arguing that the session of Congress meant to count electoral votes and certify the results of the 2020 election — should be considered the equivalent of a judicial proceeding. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected that argument in an appeal brought by Larry Brock, who was sentenced to a two-year prison term for obstructing Congress’ proceedings. U.S. District Judge John Bates calculated Brock’s sentence by including the enhancement for interfering with “administration of justice.”

Brock was among the first rioters to breach the Capitol, wearing military gear and surging with the mob onto the Senate floor. The appeals court panel affirmed Brock’s felony conviction but ordered Bates to resentence him without the enhancement attached. “Brock’s interference with one stage of the electoral college vote-counting process — while no doubt endangering our democratic processes and temporarily derailing Congress’s constitutional work — did not interfere with the ‘administration of justice,’” wrote Judge Patricia Millett joined by Judges Cornelia Pillard and Judith Rogers.

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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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