Jacob Chansley, the horned and face-painted “QAnon shaman” who instantly became one of the most visible and recognizable figures storming the Capitol and the Senate chamber in the January 6 riot, was sentenced to 41 months in prison.
Judge Royce Lamberth said that he was moved by a lengthy statement that Chansley made to the court, arguing that he had taken responsibility and expressed remorse for his conduct, but called his actions “terrible.”
“What you did here was obstruct the functions of the government,” Lamberth said. Chansley also was sentenced to 36 months of supervised release. He also will be credited for the 11 months that he already has served in custody.
In his statement to the court, Chansley said that he had “no excuse whatsoever” for his conduct “but that “I am in no way, shape or form a dangerous criminal. … I am not an insurrectionist. I am a good man who broke the law.”
Chansley entered a guilty plea in September of obstruction of a federal proceeding, a felony, in a deal with prosecutors.
On Jan. 6, Chansley was bare chested and wore a horned helmet, face paint and furs as he participated in the siege of the Capitol. He was initially charged in a six-count indictment, which also included civil disorder, violent entry and disorderly conduct.
His attorney, Albert Watkins, said that his client was not violent and has mental health issues, and that he was not one of the planners of the January 6 siege.
In an interview with 60 Minutes+ in March, Chansley denied that he was seeking “an attack on this country. That is incorrect. That is inaccurate, entirely.”
He became perhaps the most identifiable of participants in the siege not just for his outfit, but because he was among those who entered the Senate chamber after lawmakers had fled the area. He at one point stood on the dais behind the desk of the presiding officer of the Senate, which had earlier that day been filled by then-Vice President Mike Pence. Pence was presiding over the certification of electoral vote results showing that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the election.
Prosecutors sought 51 months in prison, at the maximum end of sentencing guidelines.
Prosecutor Kimberly Paschall played video of the day and Chansley’s role, including when he entered the Senate chamber and shouted, “Time’s up motherf*ckers!” She called the video “chilling.”
Paschall also cited a note that he wrote on Pence’s desk, “It is only a matter of time. Justice is coming.” Their argument was that even though Chansley did not attack police officers, he contributed to the chaos of the day.
But Lamberth noted that there was no evidence that Chansley knew that outside, rioters had set up gallows for Pence.
“It is chilling given the context of the day,” Paschall said, adding that Chansley called Pence a “F*cking traitor.”
In his remarks, Watkins argued that the image of Chansley as the face of the January 6 attack was far different than the reality. He said that the government, in arguing for a harsh sentence, ignored that Chansley had a history of mental health problems yet were not addressed even when he was in Navy service. Watkins has cited a Navy doctor diagnosis of schizotypal personality disorder in 2006 that was not disclosed to him back then, he said, even though Chansley had sought medical help to see if he was “crazy.”
“Not all those who participated in the events of January 6th were the same,” Watkins said, as he argued that Chansley was been accepting responsibility for his actions.
In his remarks, Chansley talked of the time spent in solitary confinement as a period of reflection on his actions and life. He invoked Jesus Christ, Gandhi and Clarence Thomas, as well as a line from The Shawshank Redemption. He described the pressure he has been under and a media narrative in which he has been “controversial-ized” with a focus on “a small portion of someone.” He also praised Lamberth for his military service and told him, “I could not have asked God for a better judge to judge my character.”
Lamberth said that Chansley was genuine in his remarks, and even described them as “akin to the kinds of things Martin Luther King would have said.” But he told Chansley that “what you did here was horrific, as you now concede.” The judge said that he could not justify a downward departure in the sentence given the seriousness of the crime.
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