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First Acquittal On Obstruction Charge In Capitol Riot Case

A federal judge ruled that a Jan. 6, 2021, defendant who said he entered the Senate floor to “plead the blood of Jesus” and absolve the chamber of evil spirits could not be convicted of obstruction of Congress’ joint session, the most serious felony charge he faced. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that Joshua Black had a “unique stew in his mind” that left her uncertain whether he was aware that his actions were unlawful. Black is the first Jan. 6 defendant who reached the Senate floor to be acquitted of the obstruction charge, Politico reports. Jackson found Black guilty of other charges he faced, including disorderly conduct in a restricted building while carrying a dangerous weapon — a knife — a felony that carries a maximum 10-year sentence.

For prosecutors to win a conviction for “obstruction of an official proceeding,” they must show that a defendant had “corrupt” intent. Jackson said prosecutors failed to support the charge with evidence proving Black’s intent. Evidence that Black intended to block Congress — or even was familiar with the congressional proceedings occurring that day — was “absent from the government’s case,” Jackson said. Some evidence suggested that by the time he arrived at the Capitol, Black believed that the certification of the election had ended, Jackson said. Black was seen bleeding from his cheek, the result of being shot with a police projectile before he breached the building. Jackson emphasized that Black had both religious and political reasons for his presence in Washington on Jan. 6 — a mixed motive that she said was rooted both in his claim to have “the Lord’s imprimatur” and his steady diet of social media disinformation about the election results.

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