The Justice Department saw the first acquittal of a Jan. 6 rioter on the felony obstruction charge.
Joshua Black, of Alabama, was shot in the face by a police projectile while breaching the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Court documents show him with blood on the side of his face while in the Senate chamber. Afterward, he also allegedly recorded YouTube videos with blood still on his cheek, recounting what happened.
“I had accomplished my goal. I pled the blood of Jesus on the Senate floor. You know, I praised the name of Jesus on the Senate floor,” Black said in a video, according to an FBI affidavit. “That was my goal. I think that was God’s goal.”
Following a week-long bench trial, Black was ultimately found not guilty of the charge of obstruction of an official proceeding – a felony that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, Politico reported. US District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled Black had a “unique stew in his mind,” making it difficult to determine whether he knew he was breaking the law.
The judge said prosecutors failed to prove Black’s intent was to disrupt Congress – or even whether Black was familiar with the congressional proceedings occurring that day to certify Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump. Jackson argued that some evidence even suggested Black thought the election certification ended by the time he reached the Capitol.
Black was convicted of other charges over the Jan. 6 riot, including disorderly conduct in a restricted building while carrying a dangerous weapon. That’s a felony that carries a maximum 10-year sentence. Court documents say Black admitted in a YouTube video to carrying a knife that day. “I wasn’t planning on pulling it. I just carry a knife because I do. I work outside, and you need knives, you know. I just, you’re not allowed to carry guns in DC, and I don’t like being defenseless,” he said.
Axios reported that Black is the first Jan. 6 defendant who reached the Senate floor to be acquitted of obstruction of justice. His sentencing on the other charges is set for May 5.
As of Jan. 3, 2023, US Attorney General Merrick Garland said more than 950 defendants have been arrested in nearly all 50 states and the District of Columbia in connection to the Jan. 6. riot at the US Capitol. That includes more than 284 defendants who have been charged with assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers or employees.