A federal judge on Monday dismissed an obstruction charge against a man accused of breaching the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, ruling that he himself had not directly interfered with Congress’ certification of Electoral College votes.
Officials have accused Garret Miller of being an “active participant” in the January breach and on May 12, 2021, a grand jury issued an indictment that charges him with twelve different criminal offenses, several of which are felonies.
According to court documents, federal prosecutors had argued that Miller’s alleged involvement in the breach “obstructed, influenced or impeded” Congress’ ability to certify the Electoral College vote of the 2020 presidential election, or attempted to do so.
But in a 29-page opinion (pdf) published on Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols said that ambiguities in the wording of the law require him to take a “narrow” reading of it.
Under that narrow interpretation, the court ruled that the defendant must have “taken some actions with respect to a document, record, or other object in order to corruptly obstruct, impede or influence an official proceeding,” in order to be charged with obstruction.
But Nichols said that because prosecutors had not alleged that Miller took such a direct action, and instead had simply joined the large group of people who breached the Capitol building, the obstruction charge against him must be dismissed.
“Miller, however, is not alleged to have taken such action,” Judge Nichols wrote.
“Instead, count three of the second superseding indictment alleges only that he ‘attempted to, and did, corruptly obstruct, influence, and impede an official proceeding, that is, a proceeding before Congress, specifically, Congress’s certification of the Electoral College vote,” Nichols wrote.
“Nothing in count three (or the indictment more generally) alleges, let alone implies, that Miller took some action with respect to a document, record, or other object in order to corruptly obstruct, impede or influence Congress’s certification of the electoral vote,” he added.
The judge said that because of this, the obstruction charge against Miller, who is from the Dallas suburb of Richardson, must be dismissed.
The ruling leaves open the possibility that prosecutors could potentially seek a new indictment against Miller which alleges that he specifically interfered with Congress’ records.
It could also change how the government prosecutes future Jan. 6 cases in the future.
The Epoch Times has contacted a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Miller’s attorney, Clint Broden of Dallas, said Judge Nichols had made the right decision and noted that it could potentially affect future cases related to the Capitol breach.
“In charging Mr. Miller with violating this statute, the government obviously believed that the ends to be accomplished somehow justified charging him with a statute that was not applicable to his alleged conduct. Judge Nichols correctly decided otherwise,” Broden said in an emailed statement to Politico. “This could result in a significant change as to how the government prosecutes the January 6 cases going forward.”
The obstruction of justice count is one of 12 charges that Miller faces, including assaulting a police officer and posting violent threats, including a call to assassinate Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.
Lawmakers have accused former President Donald Trump of encouraging violence at the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol, a claim that he strongly denies.
His last Facebook post called for “everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful” and nonviolent and to respect law and order.
Trump also has repeatedly insisted that he requested to bring in the National Guard ahead of the Jan. 6 demonstration, but that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) rejected the request.