Supreme Court ruling could affect hundreds charged in Jan. 6 Capitol attack

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Tom Jones WLS logo
Friday, January 12, 2024
SCOTUS ruling could affect hundreds charged in Jan. 6 Capitol attack
A Supreme Court ruling could affect hundreds charged in the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- An Illinois man is the first Jan. 6 rioter to be released from prison while awaiting a U.S. Supreme Court decision that could derail dozens of prosecutions, the ABC7 Chicago I-Team has learned.

Tom Adams, 42, of Springfield has been released early from a federal penitentiary while the high court looks at what happened three years ago and answers the question: "Is this obstruction?"

The downstate resident had been serving prison time for obstruction, but if the Supreme Court rules that storming Congress isn't obstruction, then Adams and many others charged may be partially off the hook.

The Capitol riot has so far produced thousands of criminal charges, including several hundred people charged with various versions of obstructing official proceedings.

The I-Team verified Adams was released Thursday morning from a federal prison in Forrest City, Arkansas after serving part of a 14-month sentence for breaching the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. It was a case that made headline news in his hometown, and now Adams makes news again with the surprise release authorized in a new order by a DC judge.

It comes after the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will decide whether an obstruction law applied to Jan. 6 rioters is being correctly used by federal prosecutors.

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

"It shows that the judge considered that there's a real question of law here that's going to have to be resolved by the highest court," said Gil Soffer, former federal prosecutor and chief ABC7 legal analyst.

Soffer explained that if the Supreme Court rules that what happened doesn't fit the legal definition of obstruction, then some cases, convictions and sentences could be tossed aside.

"Almost all of these defendants, maybe all of them, were charged not only with this statute that's in question, but others as well. And so the underlying conduct isn't in doubt. The underlying facts aren't in question. The question is: Can the statute be applied against these defendants? It may affect whether this particular charge can stick, but almost every instance the DOJ brought other charges, too," he said.

Adams is the first of a few dozen Jan. 6 defendants who are trying to derail their cases by questioning the use of obstruction laws.

He and others are filing motions to push trial dates, postpone sentencings or pause surrender dates until the Supreme Court rules on the obstruction question.

All of this comes as the investigation enters its fourth year, with more than a thousand photos of unidentified rioters the FBI is still hunting.