On the felony obstruction allegation, the Justice Department witnessed the very first acquittal of a rioter on January 6.
First Rioter Found Not Guilty
On January 6, 2021, Joshua Black of Alabama broke into the U.S. Capitol and was struck in the face with a police projectile.
According to court records, he was in the Senate chamber while he was bleeding from the side of his face. He apparently recounted what occurred in YouTube videos afterward while still having blood on his cheek.
Black stated in a video that he reached his objective.
He claimed he bled the blood of Jesus on the Senate floor and that he praised the name of Jesus. He also said that it was his goal and he even thinks it was God’s goal, too. All of this was recorded in an FBI affidavit.
Black was eventually found not guilty of the allegation of obstructing an official procedure, a crime that carries a potential sentence of 20 years, after a week-long bench trial.
Black had a “unique stew in his mind,” making it impossible to assess if he was aware that he was violating the law, according to U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson.
Jan. 6 rioter Joshua Black first to be cleared of obstruction charge despite reaching Senate floor https://t.co/QST0ratfae pic.twitter.com/Vr8ey5XzjP
— New York Post (@nypost) January 15, 2023
According to the judge, the prosecutor failed to establish Black’s intention to interfere with legislative business or even whether Black was aware of the congressional procedures taking place that day to declare Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump.
Jackson contended that certain evidence even implied that Black believed the election certification process was complete by the time he arrived at the Capitol.
Black was found guilty of several crimes related to the riot on January 6, including disruptive behavior in a prohibited area while in possession of a dangerous weapon. There is a maximum 10-year penalty for that offense.
👀 Judge Amy Berman Jackson just *acquitted* Jan. 6 defendant Joshua Black (pictured on the floor of the Senate) of obstruction because she said prosecutors presented no evidence he intended to stop (or even knew about) Congress’ session that day. pic.twitter.com/AEBufPQPkf
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) January 13, 2023
According to court papers, Black acknowledged using a knife that day in one of his YouTube videos. He said he had no intention of doing it and that he simply always has a knife with him. He also alleged everyone knows that he needs knives since he works outside.
He claimed he just does not like being helpless and he can’t carry a gun in DC.
Black Cleared of Wrongdoing
According to Axios, Black is the first Jan. 6 defendant to have reached the Senate floor and been cleared of any wrongdoing. The other counts will be sentenced to him on May 5.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland reported that as of January 3, 2023, more than 950 defendants had been detained in virtually all 50 states and the District of Columbia in relation to the incident at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
This comprises more than 284 different defendants who are accused of hitting, shoving, or hindering law enforcement or administrative personnel.