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U.S. District Judge Defers Ruling in Capitol Protest Case Against Texas Man


January 6 at Capital. | Image from CNBC

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On Friday, December 10, U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich refused to throw out a key charge against two men accused of storming the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

The two defendants, Nathaniel DeGrave and Ronald Sandlin, were charged with obstruction of justice after allegedly attempting to obstruct the Electoral College vote certification proceedings at the Capitol. The judge thus upheld prosecutors’ use of a criminal statute that many protest defendants are charged with violating.

The lawyers for DeGrave and Sandlin argued that the vote certification did not meet the criteria for an “official proceeding,” and their clients did not “obstruct, influence and impede the proceeding.”

As reported by CBS DFW News, Friedrich disagreed with them for those two cases and stated, “The indictment, in this case, alleges obstructive acts that fall on the obviously unlawful side of the line.”

In a separate case, Judge Friedrich deferred a ruling on whether the obstruction of justice charge would apply to defendant Guy Reffitt of Wylie, Texas.

Like DeGrave and Sandlin, Reffitt was arrested by the FBI for his alleged participation in the storming of the Capitol on January 6. He is accused of leading a group of rioters up the Capitol steps to confront law enforcement officers.

Regarding Reffitt’s case, Friedrich announced on Saturday, December 11, that “based on the indictment alone,” the facts are “unclear” if he was obstructing the proceeding. The judge wrote, “For this reason, the Court is inclined to defer ruling on his vagueness challenge until the facts have been established at trial and the jury has had the opportunity to consider that evidence.”

According to ABC DFW News, an obstruction charge of this nature is a felony with a twenty years maximum punishment in jail if convicted. Reffitt faces multiple charges, including reportedly threatening his family if they came forward about his alleged involvement on January 6 at the US Capitol.

According to Law & Crime, Friedrich stated, “The defendant is directed to file, on or before December 15, 2021, a supplemental brief of no more than 5 pages in length explaining why the Court should not defer ruling on his motion until the evidence has been presented at trial. Upon review of the defendant’s supplemental brief, the Court will consider whether a response from the government is necessary.”

Reffitt’s trial is scheduled for February of 2022.

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