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Arizona's 'QAnon Shaman' sentenced to 3+ years in prison for U.S. Capitol insurrection role

Arizona's 'QAnon Shaman' sentenced to 3+ years in prison for U.S. Capitol insurrection role

Chansley called 'epitome of the riot' by judge during Weds. hearing

  • Jacob Chansley, shown at a Maricopa County election protest in November, was sentenced to prison during a federal court hearing in D.C. on Wednesday.
    Hope O’Brien/Cronkite NewsJacob Chansley, shown at a Maricopa County election protest in November, was sentenced to prison during a federal court hearing in D.C. on Wednesday.

Jacob Anthony Chansley, who called himself the "QAnon Shaman," was sentenced to 41 months in prison by a federal judge on Wednesday for felony obstruction of a congressional proceeding for his involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

The 33-year-old Arizona man became well-known for his role in the QAnon conspiracy movement for his remarkable sartorial choices. He often went shirtless at events, wore leather breaches, and was capped with a furry, horned headdress. When he entered the U.S. Capitol building in January during a riot by supporters of Donald Trump, he was carrying an American flag attached to a spear, and had his face painted red, white and blue.

During a two-hour court hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth sentenced Chansley to more than three years in prison, followed by three years of probation and a fine of $100. Chansley was the "epitome of the riot," Lamberth said, adding that the judge believed that he had "earned the minimum guidelines."

"What you did was terrible," Lamberth said.

Chansley pleaded guilty to the charge as part of an agreement with prosecutors in September and faced 41 to 51 months in prison based on sentencing guidelines. During the hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Paschall pushed for the upper limit of 51 months, arguing that Chansley's actions were "anything but peaceful" and that he entered the Capitol "with the express purpose of interfering with Congress."

Chansley's defense attorney Albert Watkins argued that while the actions of January 6 were "repugnant" and his client had made himself accountable, his client had been diagnosed with a personality disorder during in service in the Navy in 2006, but that officials decided not share that information.

"That decision wasn't malicious," Watkins said, but nonetheless the decision "not to share that diagnosis" and "make sure this pie-faced young man in a sailor outfit was at least aware" of his diagnosis was "a fateful decision."

Chansley is one of about 600 people arrested by federal officials in connection to the insurrection attempt, when a crowd of pro-Trump rioters attempted to interfere with the congressional certification of the 2020 election and President Joe Biden's victory by over 7 million votes.

Also known as Jacob Angeli, Chansley had also joined the protest that formed outside of the Maricopa Election Center just after the 2020 election in November when it became clear that President Donald Trump had lost Arizona's electoral votes. This group pushed to stop the count of Maricopa County votes, and even attacked Fox News for calling Arizona for Biden when it was clear that Trump had managed to lose the state in a historic defeat.

Months later, on Jan. 6, Congress was holding a joint session to formally count the votes of the Electoral College in the November 2020 election. A crowd of thousands who gathered for a rally called by Trump on the National Mall overwhelmed police and smashed their way into the Capitol building, forcing members of the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, including the Vice President Mike Pence to evacuate.

During the incident, rioters clashed with police, assaulting 81 members of the Capitol Police and 58 members of the Metropolitan Police Department. One Capitol Police officer was fatally injured, and another had his eye gouged out. Another officer lost fingers. A woman was shot and killed by police as she attempted to climb through a broken window to where members of Congress were barricaded near the House chamber.

The bloody incident failed to stop the proceedings, with the formal ascertainment of the election completed later that day. Fallout from the insurrection led to a second impeachment trial of the ex-president, but the Senate refused to convict him for the second time in a vote split along partisan lines.

As the government described Chansley's actions on Jan. 6 in court records, instead of obeying the instructions of the U.S. Capitol Police to leave the building, Chansley went up another staircase to the third floor of the Senate side of the building, and entered the gallery of the Senate where he began to "scream obscenities in the gallery, while other rioters flooded the chamber below."

Chansley then left the gallery, and attempted to enter the Senate floor, where he was intercepted by Keith Robishaw, a lone Capitol Police officer, who demanded the men leave the building. Chansley then scaled the Senate dais "taking the seat that Vice President Mike Pence had occupied less than an hour before."

As the government noted, Chansley took pictures of himself, and continue to ignore the Capitol Police officer's commands. Instead, Chansley said called Pence "a fucking traitor," and wrote a note on a piece of paper, stating "It's Only A Matter of Time. Justice Is Coming!"

Later, Chansley called up other rioters to the dais, and leading them in an "incantation" over his bullhorn, which included giving thanks for the opportunity "to allow us to send a message to all the tyrants, the communists, and the globalists, that this is our nation, not theirs, that we will not allow America, the American way of the United States of America to go down."

In an interview, Chansley later said that it was a "win" to force congressmembers to "hunker down, put on their gas masks and retreat into their underground bunker," the government stated.

All of these elements were mentioned by Paschall who said that Chansley's actions "speak for themselves," and said he was part of a group of at least 50-60 people who went into the Senate chamber despite the warnings of Capitol Police.

During the hearing, Lamberth asked if the government could prove that Chansley knew about a noose that was set-up on a gallows outside the Capitol building. Paschall said they could not prove that Chansley knew about, or set up the gallows, but that his note to the vice president was "chilling given the context of that day" and that this undercut a portrayal that the rioters actions were "peaceful."

Later, Paschall played video of Chansley after he had invaded the Senate chamber, bellowing through a microphone. While the audio was difficult to hear, Paschall described what the QAnon Shaman was saying, "that last statement, 'time's up motherfuckers'" she said. "That is not peaceful; that is chilling," she said, apologizing to the court for her language.

She noted that Chansley called Pence a "fucker," and posted "vitriolic" messages on social media claiming that he needed to "stop the steal" and "end the deep state." And, when he was in the Senate chamber he was "literally in the place, where the object of his hate and vitriol had been an hour before." Paschall referenced the note that he left for the vice president. "He was minutes away, he's feet away from the object of his contempt and hatred," she said. "The note is a threat."

Paschall asked for the upper limit for a sentence as well, arguing that there should be a deterrence factor and asked Lamberth for the "top of guidelines for the flag-bearer of the Capitol riot," and send a message to everyone, no matter their "political persuasion" who "wish to do harm to this city, to this government, to this democracy—the message is don't."

Chansley's defense attorney said that the events of Jan. 6 were a "repugnancy on display," and "an unbridled unfettered repugnancy," but he argued that his while his client "wants to be held accountable," the 33-year-old man had faced a wealth of trauma in his childhood, including his step-father's suicide. "His faith had become his self-medication," Watkins said.

While Chansley "made himself an image of the riot," Watkins argued that his client wasn't violent or destructive, and he wasn't a planner or an organizer. While his client had a role in that "horrible day," he said "there was more to the story. "

He noted that Chansley was "disappointed" he wasn't pardoned by the ex-president, and that he was later "horrified" by videos of his actions.

Chansley told the court that he accepted the charge, and he said that he "believes in freedom with all my heart and soul," but he said "freedom has to be exercised with accountability" because "without punitive action, it's anarchy."

"I was wrong for entering the Capitol, I have no excuse whatsoever, the behavior is indefensible," he said, adding "I may be guilty, but I am in no way shape or form, I'm certainly not a domestic terrorist." Chansley drew parallels between himself and Jesus Christ and Gandhi, he said he would work on his "focus on his spiritual evolution."

Judge Lamberth said that Chanlsey's statement were "remarkable," but that he would not depart from the sentencing guidelines.

"What you did was horrific as you now concede, and obstructing the functioning of government is they type of conduct that is so serious that I cannot justify a downward departure," however, he decided to sentence Chansley to the minimum of 41 months.

Even as the federal government grinds through dozens of cases linked to the Jan. 6 insurrection, a select congressional committee is pursuing members of the Trump administration, as well as documents that may show how administration officials encouraged, or even aided the attack on Congress. In response, a lawyer for Trump filed suit, arguing that a request for documents from the National Archives was "a vexatious, illegal fishing expedition."

However, the committee has moved forward, citing former presidential aid Stephen Bannon on two counts of contempt of Congress, leading to his criminal indictment last week. Chansley is one of half-dozen Arizonans who were arrested for the Jan. 6 attacks. The remaining defendants are still waiting for trial.

This includes Felicia Konold and her brother Cory Konold, from the Tucson area. Both face multiple federal charges for their role in the insurrection, including conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding, obstruction of law enforcement, and carrying a deadly weapon. Federal officials have linked the Konold siblings to the Kansas City chapter of the Proud Boys, a white nationalist organization known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric. Created in 2016, the Proud Boys have become inextricably linked to Trump, and worked with other hate groups at the 2017 "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Just days before the failed insurrection, the Proud Boys attacked a Black church in Washington, D.C.

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