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‘QAnon shaman’ Jacob Chansley is sentenced to 41 months in prison

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“What you did was terrible. You made yourself the epitome of the riot,” said the judge, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan. “You didn’t slug anybody, but what you did here was actually obstruct the functioning of the whole government. It’s a serious crime.”

Chansley pleaded guilty in August to attempting to obstruct Congress’ effort to certify the results of the 2020 election. He sought a pardon from President Donald Trump just before his term ended, and he has since claimed he was duped by Trump into his belief that the election was stolen. He offered to testify at Trump’s impeachment trial in February but was denied.

But Chansley’s imposing presence in the Capitol has become a symbol of the attack. He wore face paint and a horned headdress, which he says was part of his shamanistic attire, and he carried a flagpole with a sharpened tip while towering menacingly over police officers outside the Senate chamber.

After his arrest, one of the first of about 700 connected to the Jan. 6 attack, he was ordered held in pretrial detention as a possible flight risk, due to his prominence in the QAnon community and uncertain sources of financing. While detained, he briefly made headlines for an interview with “60 Minutes+” — earning a rebuke from Lamberth — and a successful fight to obtain organic food because of his religious belief.

“It did wonders for me,” Chansley said.

But Lamberth noted that his decision to move Chansley from the D.C. jail to a Virginia jail so he could get a special diet led to some criticism.

“I took a lot of flak for that,” the judge said.

Lamberth’s sentence followed a lengthy in-court appeal from Chansley himself, who said his 317 days in pretrial confinement had “changed” him as a person. He learned he suffered from a personality disorder and lamented that he had become synonymous with the horrors of the attack on the Capitol.

“That’s a lot of bad juju that I never meant to create,” Chansley said during a sometimes rambling, half-hour-long address to the court. “My shamanic attire is designed to ward off evil spirits, not to scare people.”

In court on Wednesday, Chansley wore a drab green jail jumpsuit. His head was clean-shaven and he sported a beard. The only sign of the jarring image he struck on Jan. 6 were the large tattoos visible on his arms.

Standing at the courtroom lectern without his attorney but with a deputy marshal positioned behind him, Chansley quoted Justice Clarence Thomas and repeatedly praised Lamberth for his military service.

Chansley, 34, insisted that he accepted full responsibility for his actions, but he also argued that he posed no ongoing threat to others and he repeatedly said he was dismayed at how he’d been portrayed in the media.

“I was wrong for entering the Capitol. … I have no excuse, no excuse whatsoever. The behavior is indefensible,” he said.

“I am in no way, shape or form a dangerous criminal. I am not a violent man. I am not an insurrectionist. I am certainly not a domestic terrorist. I am a good man who broke the law,” Chansley added.

Chansley’s attorney Albert Watkins said his client’s mental health issues were identified when he was in the Navy a decade and a half ago, but said Chansley was never told of the diagnosis nor given proper treatment.

Watkins suggested in passing that some involved in Jan. 6 events had been “duped, or used or exploited,” but he did not dwell on that point.

During his remarks, Chansley never directly addressed the QAnon conspiracy theory, his views on the election or the role Trump played in inspiring the riot.

Speaking to reporters after the sentence was handed down, Watkins said that his client now accepted the election results as valid and that he appeared to lose faith in Trump after Trump ignored Chansley’s request for a pardon.

“President Trump is not someone that is important to him,” the defense attorney said. “The message of any political thought at this point … is absolutely of zero importance. … It became really clear when President Trump did not pardon him.”

Watkins seemed brimming with anger about Trump’s behavior, saying he thought that Trump had a duty to “take care of a lot of the jackasses that you f---ed up because of Jan. 6.”

“There are a lot of people on Jan. 6 who were dramatically impacted by the president,” the defense lawyer added.

Nonbinding federal sentencing guidelines called for between 41 and 51 months in prison for Chansley on the felony obstruction count he pleaded guilty to.

Watkins asked in a written pleading that Chansley receive a sentence “significantly below” that range, but prosecutors urged Lamberth to impose a sentence at the top end of that range, 51 months. They rejected arguments that he was a “peaceful” participant in the Jan. 6 mob.

“If the defendant had been peaceful on that day, Your Honor, we would not be here,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Paschall said.

Paschall said Chansley had spent months whipping up followers into a frenzy over false claims of voter fraud, describing his efforts as “a call to battle.” Then, she said, Chansley stormed past police and onto the Senate dais, where Pence stood just moments before and wrote a note that read “It’s only a matter of time. Justice is coming.”

The prosecutor said Chansley’s statements were not mere bluster because they were delivered amid the riot and with Pence and others still in danger.

“He’s feet away from the object of his contempt,” Paschall said. “This note was not peaceful. This note is a threat.”

Watkins indicated that Chansley had also been cooperating with the government since his incarceration. He has sat for multiple debriefings, Watkins noted, and is willing to offer further help.

The obstruction charge that Chansley pleaded guilty to and that other Capitol riot defendants are challenging in court carries a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison. Chansley said that for a period after his arrest he was distraught because he thought he was certain to receive the maximum.

“I thought it was going to be 20 years of solitary confinement,” he said.

Chansley also used his remarks to distinguish himself from the other defendants who have been jailed alongside him, suggesting they’re more hardened than he is.

“I am nothing like these people that I have been incarcerated with,” he said, adding, “They’re acting like they’re in the Holiday Inn while they’re incarcerated.”

Last week, Lamberth delivered another 41-month sentence to a New Jersey man who admitted punching a police officer in the face amidst the riot at the Capitol. The pair of sentences are the most severe meted out thus far in Jan. 6-related cases, although more serious charges remain pending against many defendants.

As the court hearing concluded on Wednesday, Lamberth suggested as he did last week that remaining defendants in the Capitol riot cases would be wise to plead guilty. He assured Chansley that he would’ve received even more prison time if he had gone to trial rather than accept a plea deal.

“If they want to go to trial they can, but you were smart,” the judge assured Chansley. “It may not feel it today, but I guarantee you, you were smart.”


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November 17, 2021, 7:08 pm





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