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Tampa Bay Rioters Face New Challenges After Supreme Court Ruling

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Tampa Bay Rioters Face New Challenges After Supreme Court Ruling

The Tampa Bay area has the highest number of Jan. 6 rioters charged per capita in the United States, and some may be affected by Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding an obstruction-related charge.

Tampa lawyer Patrick Leduc represented Paul Hodgkins after the Capitol riot in 2021. Hodgkins, the Tampa man who took a selfie in the Senate chambers, was charged and pleaded guilty to obstructing an official proceeding and sentenced to eight months in jail. “Knowing what I now know today, would I change my advice or recommendation to Mr. Hodgkins? No, I wouldn’t have,” Leduc said.

The high court has since ruled that the Department of Justice interpreted “obstruction” too broadly. The Justices narrowed the scope.

University of South Florida Constitutional Law Expert Rob Mellen Jr. said this felony obstruction charge now only applies to people who have destroyed or damaged official documents.

“They are not going to get out of jail,” Mellen said. “They’re not getting ‘get out of jail free cards’ because of this. I think this was a unique prosecution by the DOJ. It might have been a different story if they had gotten onto the House floor and destroyed the electoral votes.”

University of South Florida Political Expert J. Edwin Benton said this may fuel concerns over the lagging trust of federal prosecutors.

“It’s possible,” he said. “It could be fading because when the Supreme Court rules against you and when the Supreme Court speaks, it is the law of the land,” Benton said.

As for Leduc, he said if convicted rioters want to fight that obstruction charge, they should wait until January to see if there’s a new president.

“I certainly think that if the election goes the way it looks like it might go, I think the president, at least to guys like him, they’re probably going to get a pardon,” Leduc said.

It’s unclear how many Tampa Bay-area people have been charged under the obstruction statute in question. News report by WFLA

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