Prosecutors delay sentencing for Oath Keeper as Supreme Court weighs Jan. 6 obstruction statute

In this Justice Department exhibit from the Oath Keepers trial, we can see several members who were present at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Ohio resident Donovan Crowl is highlighted with a green arrow, while David Moerschel is identified by the red arrow, William Isaacs by the purple arrow, Jessica Watkins by the yellow arrow, and Laura Steele by the orange arrow. Kelly Meggs and his wife Connie Meggs can be seen as well, with Kelly identified by the blue arrow and Connie identified by the white arrow (via DOJ court filing).

A highly anticipated ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court is imminent regarding a contentious charge that has been applied to numerous individuals involved in the Jan. 6 riots, including former President Donald Trump. In light of this, federal prosecutors have agreed to temporarily postpone the sentencing of Donovan Crowl, one of the initial Oath Keepers charged in connection with the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

In January 6, 2021, Crowl, an Ohio native and former U.S. Marine, was observed marching up the Capitol steps alongside his convicted Oath Keepers comrades in a disciplined military-style “stack” formation. Last July, he was convicted at a stipulated bench trial presided over by U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, who was appointed by Barack Obama.

As previously reported by Law&Crime, Crowl’s co-defendant, Broadway actor James Beeks, was acquitted by Mehta during the trial. However, based on the stipulated statement of facts, Mehta found Crowl guilty of conspiracy to obstruct an official congressional proceeding, specifically the certification of the 2020 election results. Crowl was also found guilty of an act to obstruct, impede, or interfere with officers carrying out their duties at the Capitol.

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Crowl, who is 50 years old, could have been subjected to a trial, similar to many other Oath Keepers. This includes the leader of the network, Elmer Stewart Rhodes, as well as his follower Kelly Meggs, whom Crowl followed up the steps of the Capitol. Another possible defendant is Jessica Watkins, who used to be Crowl’s friend and is a recruiter for the Oath Keepers.

According to the findings, it was determined that Crowl did not witness any communications between Rhodes and other Oath Keepers who expressed their intention to participate in a “civil war.” However, Mehta concluded that Crowl had a close association with Watkins on January 6, and there was evidence to suggest that he was present during a conversation with Meggs inside the Capitol, where Meggs declared their intent to disrupt the vote count. Additionally, Crowl’s choice to wear tactical gear, including a combat helmet and bulletproof vest, while in Washington, D.C., did not work in his favor during the trial.

In the aftermath of Crowl’s conviction, Rhodes, Meggs, and Watkins have all been serving lengthy prison sentences. However, Crowl has yet to begin serving his.

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According to court records, he was released in March 2021 while awaiting trial. As part of the conditions, he was placed under GPS surveillance. Although he was convicted in July, his sentencing was delayed until November. However, in December, Crowl requested the court to postpone his sentencing due to the Supreme Court’s decision to review the Fischer v. United States case. Oral arguments for this case are set for April 16.

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Donovan Crowl, along with Jessica Watkins, both hailing from Ohio, were arrested on January 18, 2021. These self-proclaimed militia members are now facing federal charges for their alleged participation in the assault on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Following extensive investigation and identification through social media and surveillance footage, the FBI has charged at least 10 individuals from Ohio in connection with the deadly insurrection. Among this group are individuals associated with the Oath Keepers militia group, who have been indicted for allegedly planning and coordinating the attack.

Crowl’s sentencing has been rescheduled multiple times. Originally scheduled for January 2024, it was then pushed back to February, and now it has been set for March 22.

The Supreme Court is currently reviewing the case of Joseph Fischer, a former Pennsylvania police officer and participant in the January 6th riot. Fischer is seeking clarification from the court regarding the charges brought against him under 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2), a statute related to obstruction of justice.

whoever corruptly alters, destroys, mutilates or conceals a record, document or other object, or attempts to do so, with the intent to impair the object’s integrity or availability for use in an official proceeding; otherwise obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.

Fischer, along with many other defendants charged on Jan. 6, has raised the argument that the D.C. Circuit incorrectly applied the statute to him. He contends that the statute should only be applicable if a defendant has taken action regarding a record or physical document. Crowl, in his own motion to postpone sentencing, emphasized the importance of his request, as the felony obstruction statute carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, while the only other offense he was convicted of could lead to a maximum sentence of 5 years.

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In addition, Crowl pointed out that a ruling in the case of another defendant involved in the January 6 incident, retired U.S. Air Force officer Larry Brock, supported his argument. As previously reported by Law&Crime, the appellate court found that the lower court had made a mistake in Brock’s case. The court determined that the “administration of justice” statute only applied to judicial proceedings and not congressional proceedings, such as the certification of the Electoral College’s vote by Congress. Consequently, Brock was ordered to be resentenced. Crowl believes that his own sentence should also be taken into consideration based on this ruling.

Upon reviewing the district court docket in Washington, D.C., it is evident that federal prosecutors initially expressed opposition to the motion. However, it appears that their opposition has now been put on hold. Carmen Hernandez, the attorney representing Crowl, submitted the filing on Tuesday with the consent of the prosecutors.

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