Capitol rioters hope US Supreme Court will come to their defense

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Tom Jones WLS logo
Tuesday, January 9, 2024
Capitol rioters hope SCOTUS will come to their defense
Some defendants are turning to the Supreme Court in hopes that the justices will lessen their sentence in connection with the 2021 insurrection.

SCHILLER PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- Three years after the riotous insurrection at America's capitol, the nation's most expansive criminal investigation ever to take place is still pushing forward, with a suburban Schiller Park man recently appearing in court for the first time to answer to criminal charges.

What started as a ferocious fight between rioters and police outside the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, has now become a legal skirmish line.

The I-Team has found some defendants are turning to the Supreme Court in hopes that the justices will lessen their sentence.

Among the more than 1,200 people arrested in connection with crimes that day is Robin Reierson, 69, of Schiller Park.

Court records reviewed by the I-Team show that authorities claim that they have evidence Reierson is seen on video pushing officers and wearing a helmet while the riot was underway.

At the time of the riot, Reierson worked as a lead welder at Argonne National Laboratory, a top security facility southwest of Chicago, according to officials there.

A spokesperson for Argonne National Laboratory told the I-Team on Monday that Reierson "is no longer employed by the lab" and directed all further questions to the U.S. Attorney's office.

Reierson appeared before a U.S. District Court Judge on Jan. 2, 2024, and pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor and felony charges.

Reierson's attorney, Michael Leonard, told the I-Team his client "had limited participation and went there with no intent of doing harm."

SEE ALSO | It may be a long time, if ever, before everyone involved in Jan. 6 is punished. Here's why

"He's not connected to any right wing groups and is different than the others," Leonard said, adding that Reierson went to the Capitol that day because he supported Trump's assertion that the election had been stolen.

While many January 6 cases are proceeding in the courts, some defendants are hoping a recent announcement by the U.S. Supreme Court will lead to relief for them.

Thomas Adams from Springfield was found guilty of crashing the Senate floor while waving a Trump flag. Adams is now in federal prison, serving a 14-month sentence.

But late last month, Adams filed a federal court motion for immediate release, claiming a pending U.S. Supreme Court decision could redefine the meaning of an obstruction charge that sent Adams to prison.

The Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a case about whether the criminal charge for "corruptly obstructing congressional inquiries and investigations" was properly used in charging Jan 6 defendants.

In that case, Fischer v. United States, defendant Joseph Fischer says he was only briefly inside the Capitol on Jan. 6 but was charged with assaulting a police officer, disorderly conduct in the Capitol, and obstruction of a congressional proceeding.

Fischer asked the court to dismiss the obstruction charge and U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols agreed, arguing that this charge, "was enacted in the wake of the Enron collapse," and was "only intended to apply to evidence tampering that obstructs an official proceeding."

The U.S. Court of Appeals reversed that decision, and now, the Supreme Court has agreed to weigh-in and determine whether the charge was properly used.

ABC 7 Chief Legal Analyst Gil Soffer said it's important to keep in mind any decision by the Supreme Court would only apply to this single charge, and many January 6 defendants faced many counts.

"The case now brought to the Supreme Court is about one statute that the federal government has been bringing against January 6 protesters. It's only one of many," said Soffer, a former federal prosecutor in Chicago. "So even if there's a reversal here, and even if the Supreme Court decides that [the Department of Justice] was abusing this statute, there are still many other convictions on many other counts that will stand."