Supreme Court’s Review of Jan. 6 Charge Has Already Freed Some Rioters

The Supreme Court’s decision to consider the soundness of an obstruction law that has been widely used against those who took part in the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, is already having an effect on some of the rioters.

A small group of people convicted under the law have been released from custody — or will soon go free — even though the justices hearing arguments on Tuesday are not expected to decide the case for months.

Over the past several weeks, federal judges in Washington have agreed to release about 10 defendants who were serving prison terms because of the obstruction law, saying the defendants could wait at home as the court determined whether the law should have been used at all to keep them locked up.

Among those already free is Matthew Bledsoe, the owner of a moving company from Tennessee who scaled a wall outside the Capitol and then paraded through the building with a Trump flag, ultimately planting it in the arm of a statue of President Gerald R. Ford.

Soon to be released are defendants like Kevin Seefried, a drywall installer from Delaware who carried a Confederate flag through the Capitol, and Alexander Sheppard, an Ohio man who overran police lines to become one of the first people to break into the building.

The interrupted sentences — which could be reinstated depending on how the Supreme Court rules — are just one of the complications to have emerged from the court’s review of the obstruction statute, known in the penal code as 18 U.S.C. 1512. The charge has been used so far against more than 350 rioters, including Jacob Chansley, the so-called QAnon Shaman, and members of the far-right extremist groups the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.

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