Why sedition charges are eyed after Capitol attack
A little used Civil War-era statute that outlaws waging war against the United States is getting a fresh look after the attacks on the Capitol in Washington. (Jan. 15)
Experts told The Associated Press that an action that would try and stop the confirmation of the vote for Joe Biden as president is “the very type of thing that this seditious conspiracy law was designed for.”
The last successful prosecution for seditious conspiracy in the U.S. came in 1995.
An Egyptian cleric, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, and nine followers were convicted in a plot to blow up the United Nations, the FBI’s building, and two tunnels and a bridge linking New York and New Jersey.
Prosecutors offered jurors Abdel-Rahman’s fiery speeches, witness testimony and a recording of his conversation with an FBI informant in which the sheikh said U.S. military installations could be attacked.
Abdel-Rahman argued on appeal that he was never involved in planning actual attacks against the U.S. and his hostile rhetoric was protected free speech. His conviction was upheld and the so-called “Blind Sheikh” died in prison in 2017 at 78.
Before the Capitol attack, federal prosecutors talked about using the seditious conspiracy statute in cases involving protests against police brutality, though none were brought.
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