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Pugh’s attorneys challenged the law on various legal grounds, noting that the provision under which Pugh was indicted was called the Civil Obedience Act. The motion to dismiss the case was part of what the government called a coordinated effort by defense lawyers to prosecute the law in cases across the country where it is used against individuals accused of violence in last year’s racial justice protests has been.
However, Moorer, who was President Donald Trump’s first black candidate for the Bundesbank, said the law was constitutionally sound. And in dismissing Pugh’s claims of selective law enforcement and racial bias, he noted that while the law has seldom been applied in recent decades, it is now used in dozens of cases related to the January Capitol storming.
“While [civil disorder law] Law enforcement may not be common, it is clearly now being applied to a wide variety of people – between the few cases that emerged from the George Floyd protests that created civil disorder, and the more recent cases against some participants in the Events on January 6th were asserted. 2021 in the US Capitol. Each of the … law enforcement actions that arose from these protests involve individuals of different races and genders with extremely different ideologies, “the judge wrote.
Moore’s 24-page statement also rejected a defensive argument that the law does not conform to the federal principles of the Constitution because it does not require a sufficiently substantive link between interstate trade and the “civil disorder” that is a requirement of the federal offense.
Still, Pugh will be able to advance a version of this argument in her trial, claiming that there is a lack of evidence that the protest she participated in actually disrupted trade. Prosecutors said that during the demonstration the police had closed an exit from the motorway and that trucks carrying dangerous loads had been asked to make a detour. However, it is unclear whether this was actually the case.
Pugh’s attorney in charge, Gordon Armstrong, described the verdict as “disappointing but not entirely unexpected,” adding that a verdict in favor of the defense on such matters would come from an appellate panel rather than a trial judge.
“Now we are turning to the process and not looking back,” said the defender.
The case against Pugh is likely to be the first to appear on trial in a wave of such cases filed by federal prosecutors across the country after Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr called for federal action and accused local prosecutors in many jurisdictions for not doing this Demonstrate protesters who have turned violent. A handful of the federal cases ended in admission of guilt, but more appear to have been dropped or put on hold in stores where cases must be dropped if the defendants have no problems for a set period of time.
Pugh faces up to five years in prison if convicted of a federal crime. However, defendants are usually sentenced under federal sentencing guidelines, which typically provide much shorter sentences for offenders with little or no criminal record.
In Pugh’s case, the U.S. attorney in Mobile filed the federal lawsuit against her just five days after the incident. Pugh had already been arrested by mobile police for incitement to riot and criminal mischief.
Last month, the Justice Department sent a prosecutor from its Washington headquarters to Mobile to defend the riot law. No court knocked it down, but only one federal appeals court upheld: the St. Louis-based 8th Circuit in a case where two men were convicted of throwing cherry bombs at firefighters trying to start a fire on the Air Force ROTC to clear building on Washington University campus.
A conviction of Pugh followed by an appeal would allow the Justice Department to get another vote of confidence in the Atlanta 11th Circuit Act. It is considered to be one of the most conservative federal appeals courts in the country.
The only argument against the law that appears to have a good chance of resonating with conservative judges is the claim that the legally mandated link with international trade is too weak. However, profit on these grounds is unlikely to interfere with the application of the law in the Capitol insurgency, as they rely on a separate language in the law that covers interference with a “federally protected function” regardless of the trade impact .