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A Cedar Rapids man charged in the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol insurrection will go to trial Jan. 16, 2023, in federal court in Washington, D.C., according to court documents.
A trial scheduling order was filed for Leo Christopher Kelly, 36, last week following a status hearing in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Kelly’s lawyer and prosecutors had been working on plea negotiations, according to court documents, but there is no mention of a possible plea in recent documents or the new order.
This is the first trial date set for Kelly after the case has been pending over a year.
While suggesting a schedule for motion deadlines in a motion last month, Kira West, Kelly’s Washington, D.C., lawyer, said the court might wait until the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit hears a case regarding an appeal of a federal charge- 18 U.S. Code 1512 — obstruction of an official proceeding, which Kelly and over 300 others were charged with after the riot. This felony carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
A federal judge in a Texas man’s case in March dismissed this charge, after 10 other judges approved the charge in other Capitol rioters’ cases, ruling prosecutors can’t filed this charge unless defendants tampered with official documents or records during the Capitol attack, according to a Washington Post report.
The statute includes “whoever corruptly alters, destroys, mutilates or conceals a record or document…or otherwise obstructs, influences or impedes any official proceeding.” Prosecutors have been accusing the defendants of the second portion of obstructing the proceeding of Congress’ certifying the election on Jan. 6, 2021.
U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols, in his ruling, said prosecutors could not use part of the provision alone, and that it would require “the defendant to take some action with respect to a document, record, or other object in order to corruptly obstruct, impede or influence an official proceeding.”
Raiding the Capitol or forcing members of Congress to leave or trying to stop votes from being counted doesn’t meet the interpretation, Nichols said in his ruling.
West said the circuit court will hear the appeal on the issue in the next couple of months and answer how the law will be applied to the Jan. 6 cases. She suggested waiting for that appeal decision before she and “hundreds of other lawyers spin her wheels on this issue.”
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, in Kelly’s case, didn’t mention the appeal regarding the charge.
Kelly pleaded not guilty last December when he was indicted on seven additional charges — one count each of obstruction of an official proceeding; entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds; entering and remaining on the floor of Congress; entering and remaining in certain rooms in the Capitol; disorderly conduct in a Capitol Building; and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol Building.
Kelly is accused of attempting to “corruptly obstruct, influence and impede” the official proceeding to certify the election results and entering and remaining on the Floor of Congress, “in any cloakroom and lobby adjacent to that floor, in the Rayburn Room of the House of Representatives, the Marble Room of the Senate,” and in a restrictive area where former Vice President Mike Pence was that day to certify the election results, according to the indictment.
He also is accused of disorderly and disruptive conduct in the Capitol and “willfully and knowingly paraded, demonstrated and picketed in the Capitol,” the indictment stated.
Kelly, who works at his family-owned business as a broker of internet services, said during interviews with The Gazette and LifeSiteNews in January 2021 that he was “one of the first men to breach the Capitol building and go inside with dozens of others,” which helped lead an FBI investigator to him.
During the interview, he told a Gazette reporter that he wasn't a violent person and wasn't part of any destruction or damage of property and items inside the Capitol and personal offices.
Kelly also was identified through video taken of the chaotic assault by the New Yorker magazine.
He remains free on a personal recognizance bond pending trial.
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