Judge Rejects Oath Keepers’ Motion to Dismiss Jan. 6 Charge

Judge Rejects Oath Keepers' Motion to Dismiss Jan. 6 Charge protesters stand outside the capitol on january sixth (Jose Luis Magana/AP)

By Brian Freeman | Tuesday, 21 December 2021 04:23 PM

A federal judge has ruled prosecutors will be permitted to move forward with the charge of obstruction of an official proceeding against 17 defendants connected to the Oath Keepers right-wing paramilitary group, denying a legal challenge brought by the Capitol riot defendants, The Hill reported Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta rejected the various arguments of the defendants, writing in his ruling "their alleged conduct was no mere political protest or trespass. If proven, their conduct crossed the line to criminal conduct."

The judge then quoted the statute's text by stating, "they 'corruptly' conspired to, and did, 'obstruct, influence, and impede an official proceeding.'"

Mehta, who was appointed by former president Barack Obama, is the third judge to uphold the charge of obstruction of an official proceeding in challenges brought by Capitol riot defendants, according to The Hill.

The count is among the most serious that have been brought in response to the attack on the Capitol, as there is a maximum possible prison sentence of 20 years if a defendant is found guilty of obstructing an official proceeding.

Defendants have argued the law is vague and the Electoral College certification vote that took place Jan. 6 cannot be considered an "official proceeding."

The defendants have also claimed its use against the Capitol rioters threatens other demonstrators who sometimes peacefully disrupt congressional proceedings, according to The Hill.

Members of the Oath Keepers are among the alleged right-wing extremists to have played a significant part in the Jan. 6 attack, with some seen moving through the crowd in military formation and entering the Capitol Rotunda, according to CNN.

The name refers to an oath sworn by police and military personnel to defend the Constitution against "all enemies, foreign and domestic."