Even Passive January 6 Protestors Within The Capitol May Be Found Guilty, As Per A Federal Court Rule

A federal appeals court ruled that defendants who were unlawfully present in the Capitol during the disturbance on January 6 might still be found guilty even if they were only watching.

Even Passive January 6 Protestors Within The Capitol May Be Found Guilty, As Per A Federal Court Rule

Because such definitions “are nebulous but time has given them concrete contours in two important ways here,” the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Friday that trespassers in the Capitol during the riot did not need to be acting “disorderly” or “disruptive” to be found guilty of disorderly conduct.

“First, it is well-established that whether conduct qualifies as disorderly depends on the surrounding circumstances,” the court wrote. “Courts consistently observe that ‘whether a given act provokes a breach of the peace depends upon the accompanying circumstances,’ making it ‘essential that the setting be considered.’”

“Second, it is equally clear from case law that even passive, quiet and nonviolent conduct can be disorderly,” the ruling continued.

In an extended analogy involving singing, the court likened trespassers who were present in the Capitol on January 6, 2021, to hikers and spectators.

“A lone hiker on a mountaintop can sing at the top of his lungs without disturbing a soul; a patron in a library cannot,” the court wrote. “It is entirely appropriate to clap and cheer when a keynote speaker steps to the podium but to do so once the room has fallen quiet and he has begun to speak would ordinarily be disruptive.”

It continued, “Thus, in determining whether an act is disorderly, the act cannot be divorced from the circumstances in which it takes place.”

Russell Alford, a Jan. 6 defendant who was found guilty of four crimes in 2022 while claiming he was a passive observer who did not join in the turmoil, had his appeal against his conviction dismissed by the court.

“A rational jury could conclude that Alford’s actions were disruptive because his presence in the Capitol contributed to the Congress’s multi-hour delay in completing the electoral certification,” the court document reads.

It adds, “There was ample evidence for the jury to conclude that Alford knowingly entered the Capitol without authorization.”

Alford received a twelve-month prison sentence.

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