JAKARTADAILY.ID - A U.S. federal judge has upheld an indictment against four members of the far-right Proud Boys, The Associated Press reported Wednesday (December 29, 2021).
The men are accused of plotting to attack the U.S. Capitol in order to prevent Congress from certifying President Joe Biden's victory on January 6.
Defense counsel argued that the four individuals — Joseph Biggs, Ethan Nordean, Charles Donohoe, and Zachary Rehl — are protected under the U.S. First Amendment. However, Judge Timothy Kelly dismissed the defense, saying that their alleged conduct was "simply not protected by the First Amendment."
According to Kelly, the defendants had various harmless options to communicate their views on the 2020 presidential election. "Quite obviously, there were many avenues for Defendants to express their opinions about the 2020 presidential election, or their views about how Congress should perform its constitutional duties on January 6, without resorting to the conduct with which they have been charged."
Several charges have been brought against the defendants for violating federal law, including conspiring and impending an official procedure. All four remain in custody until their trial in May next year.
Many of the Justice Department's most serious prosecutions relating to the January 6 attack on Congress have revolved around the felony obstruction accusation, which carries a potential sentence of 20 years in prison.
U.S. prosecutors have cited the allegation in almost 230 of the 700 criminal charges filed against assault participants. About 40 individuals have been charged with plotting to obstruct Congress or law enforcement authorities defending the U.S. Capitol. They are reportedly linked with far-right groups such as the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, and the Three Percenters.