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Tag: jacob chansley

Seeking Plea Deal, Lawyer Claims 'QAnon Shaman' Was 'Unarmed, Harmless, Peaceful'

Notorious Capitol rioter Jacob Chansley, better known as the "QAnon shaman," is negotiating a possible plea deal with prosecutors after psychologists found he suffers from multiple mental illnesses, his lawyer told Reuters -- while painting a rosy image of the violent insurrectionist's part during the Capitol riot.

According to Albert Watkins, Chansley's defense lawyer, he was diagnosed with transient schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety by officials at the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The findings have not yet been made public.

"As he spent more time in solitary confinement ... the decline in his acuity was noticeable, even to an untrained eye," Watkins told Reuters, adding Chansley's 2006 records from his time in the Navy show similar results.

Watkins also tried to spin Chansley's role in the deadly Capitol insurrection, saying, "What we've done is we've taken a guy who is unarmed, harmless, peaceful ... with a pre-existing mental vulnerability of significance, and we've rendered him a chocolate soup mess."

But Chansley was anything but "unarmed, harmless, peaceful," according to video from within the Capitol he breached with a crowd of Trump-supporting extremists bearing his trademark headdress, face paint and spear.

It's not the first time Watkins has tried to downplay the danger Chansley presented during the Capitol riot and claim the spear he wielded wasn't a weapon.

During an attempt to get his client out of jail in late June, the lawyer called the spear a "flagpole," adding that it was "useless" and just "part of the shaman costume."

The prosecutor, James Nelson, wasn't convinced, noting that Watkins "has been talking for more than 20 minutes and hasn't said a single correct thing," during the hearing.

It is not clear if Chansley, whose charges include civil disorder and obstructing an official proceeding, is considering pleading guilty, but, according to Reuters, "defendants negotiating plea deals typically seek to plead to a less serious charge to reduce their potential prison sentences."

'QAnon Shaman’ Lawyer Calls Capitol Rioters ‘Retarded’ And ‘Manipulated’

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Jacob Chansley, dubbed the "QAnon Shaman" in the media, is among the most famous of the Capitol rioters who is facing federal criminal charges in connection with the January 6 insurrection. Albert Watkins, Chansley's attorney, discussed his client with Talking Points Memo's Matt Shuham — who reports that Watkins indicated that he is using his client's mental state as a defense.

Watkins told Shuham, "A lot of these defendants — and I'm going to use this colloquial term, perhaps disrespectfully — but they're all fucking short-bus people. These are people with brain damage, they're fucking retarded, they're on the goddamn spectrum. But they're our brothers, our sisters, our neighbors, our coworkers — they're part of our country. These aren't bad people; they don't have prior criminal history. Fuck, they were subjected to four-plus years of goddamn propaganda, the likes of which the world has not seen since fucking Hitler."

The propaganda that Watkins is obviously referring to is the propaganda of former President Donald Trump. The rioters who attacked the Capitol on January 6 bought into Trump's false and totally debunked claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him. And Watkins is arguing that they were manipulated by the former president.

Watkins wrote that Chansley has been consistent "in his assertion that but for the actions and the words of the President, he would not have appeared in Washington, DC to support the President and, but for the specific words of the then-President during his January 6, 2021 speech, the Defendant would not have walked down Pennsylvania Avenue and would not have gone into the U.S. Capitol Building."

Judge Berates ‘QAnon Shaman’ For ‘Publicity Stunt’

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Jacob Chansley, known as the so-called "QAnon Shaman," is among the many far-right extremists facing criminal charges in connection with the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol Building. When Chansley's attorney, Albert Watkins, appeared at a bail hearing last week on March 5, Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denounced Chansley's recent appearance on 60 Minutes Plus as a "media publicity stunt."

At the hearing, Watkins tried to convince Lamberth — a Ronald Reagan appointee — that his client should be released on bail before his trial. The 33-year-old Chansley is facing criminal charges that include violent entry, disorderly conduct and illegally entering restricted spaces.

During his 60 Minutes Plus appearance, Chansley tried to paint himself as a sympathetic figure. But Lamberth was not impressed and wanted to know why Chansley made that television appearance without his authorization. The judge asked Watkins, "Can you tell me how that came about?" and accused the attorney of using "subterfuge" to avoid jailhouse restrictions.

Lamberth did not grant the QAnon Shaman bail.

Watkins, at the hearing, told Lamberth, "It didn't occur to me that I wouldn't be able to capture the video image of my client in my office." And Watkins, in response to Lambert's allegation of "subterfuge," said, "It's just not my style."

Law & Crime reporter Adam KIasfeld notes that Watkins has been "depicting his client as a man inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, a believer in the principle of nonviolence toward all living beings called ahimsa — and a supposed shaman who allegedly would not crush a bug." But prosecutors have been stressing that the pole Chansley was carrying on Jan. 6 could have been used as a deadly weapon. And Chansley, according to court papers, left a threatening note for then-Vice President Mike Pence that described him as a "traitor" and read, "It's only a matter of time. Justice is coming."

The insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6 were trying to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over then-President Donald Trump, who repeatedly made the false and debunked claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him through widespread voter fraud. As part of the defense, Klasfeld points out, Chansley has tried to paint himself as someone who was duped and misled by Trump.

The January 6 insurrectionists believed that Pence betrayed Trump by not doing more to prevent Biden's certification, and some of them were calling for his murder and chanting, "Hang Mike Pence."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Louise Paschall, one of the federal prosecutors in Chansley's case, spoke by phone during the bail hearing and said, "We know how the defendant feels to this day about some of these issues because he has spoken to the press." And Chansley, Paschall said, obviously believes that the election was stolen from Trump "because he told 60 Minutes as much."

Why Is CBS ’60 Minutes’ Trying To Rehabilitate The Qanon ‘Shaman’?

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Arriving for the first jailhouse interview with the Trump insurrectionist known as the "QAnon Shaman," 60 Minutes+ this week provided a surprisingly gentle and understanding forum for someone who helped terrorize members of Congress on Jan. 6, when a murderous mob ransacked the U.S. Capitol.

Along with interviewing Jacob Chansley (aka the Shaman), CBS's Laurie Segall interviewed Chansley's mother who insisted her son is innocent of the six charges he faces after storming the Capitol, bare-chested and wearing a fur helmet with horns.

She claimed President Joe Biden had won the election "fraudulently," which is part of the GOP's Big Lie campaign. Her bogus election claim received no direct pushback from Segall. Why would CBS present someone as a credible person who thinks the election was stolen? 60 Minutes+ also allowed Chansley's mother to spout QAnon rhetoric about human trafficking without calling it out.

The whole CBS segment had the unfortunate feeling of a rehabilitation effort, and specifically the national press using a sympathetic lens through which to view white, right-wing political criminals. It's part of an ongoing, compassion campaign to better understand Trump sycophants who are so divorced from reality and the rule of law that they eagerly ransacked the Capitol in a dangerous effort to overturn an American election.

Are these really the type of people we need to better understand, the people who deserve a national platform? Isn't it just giving a megaphone to an insurrectionist who wants to rebrand himself on the eve of his court date, while expressing his deep admiration for Trump? (Segall: "What was it about Donald Trump that you felt so fiercely loyal to?")

"I consider myself a lover of my country. I consider myself a believer in the Constitution. I consider myself a believer in truth and our founding principles. I consider myself a believer in God," Chansley told CBS.

The interview felt like an extension of the media's four-year obsession with profiling Trump voters, and treating them as some sort of anointed tribe of captivating voters who represented the true, authentic voices of America. Not the backbone for a looming insurrection. Segall: "Do you still believe you're a patriot?"

Think of how many prisoners of color are sitting in jails across the country, unjustly convicted or facing disproportionately long prison sentences, and ask if the QAnon Shaman really deserves national attention to better tell his personal tale? Should CBS be working with the insurrectionist's defense attorney, who help set up the Q&A, because he desperately wants to clean up his client's public image in advance of a court proceeding? ("He's like a kid.")

House members this week were allowed to leave town Wednesday night after law enforcement warned about a possible militia-led attack on the Capitol because of the deranged conspiracy claim that on March 4, Trump would be inaugurated. Meaning, QAnon is not a curiosity. It's a collection of dangerous radicals who have already terrorized the country.

"The "QAnon Shaman" of the January 6th attack on the Capitol tells his story for the first time from jail," is how CBS promoted the report. But why we should care about "his story" was never explained. During the 20 minutes, viewers learned Chansley thinks he's innocent, thinks he didn't do anything wrong on Jan. 6 (i.e. it wasn't an "attack"), and that his intention that day was "to bring divinity, and to bring God back into the Senate." Viewers also learned that Chansley's family and his attorney agree he's innocent — not exactly ground-breaking stuff. What it really comes down to is 60 Minutes+ landed the interview, period, and thought that in and of itself was news.

Additional problems arose when Segall interviewed Chansley's mother, Martha Chansley, who justified her son's inclusion in the January mob by claiming the 2020 election was stolen. "I don't think it's right that [the election] was won fraudulently. I don't believe it was won fairly at all," she told CBS. Segall was not shown confronting that lie on camera. Instead, during a voice-over she said, "Both Jacob and Martha Chansley are part of a significant group of Americans who believe the 2020 election was fraudulent, that Donald Trump actually won."

Segall also gave Martha Chansley free rein to spew QAnon lies: "Jacob was exposing that and helping people to being formed; money laundering, human trafficking, all that ugly stuff. How all that revolves around our election and everything is it's part of the draining of the swamp." The CBS report then cut to Martha going through old photo albums as she, "paint[ed] a picture of Chansley's childhood."

Insurrectionists who spread bogus claims about human trafficking don't deserve to be the subject of human interest profiles by 60 Minutes.

CBS News Slammed For ‘Complicit’ Interview With QAnon Rioter

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Should Americans hear from an individual in jail facing felony charges related to their alleged participation in the January 6 insurrection, especially on the day terrorism experts say the QAnon cult might again engage in violence so dangerous the House has postponed business for the day?

Some are saying no, and blasting CBS News for promoting its jailhouse interview today with one of the most recognizable faces from the insurrection, Jacob Chansley, better known as the "QAnon Shaman."

Responding to a clip from its "60 Minutes +" interview with correspondent Laurie Segall that CBS News posted to Twitter, attorney Max Kennerly blasted the network:

He was far from the only one.

In an associated CBS News article the subhead reads: "Jacob Chansley, the man seen wearing face paint and a fur helmet with horns during the January 6 insurrection, tells 60 Minutes+ he was trying 'to bring God back to the Senate.'"

That article quotes Chansley extensively, in part saying, "My actions were not an attack on this country," and, "I sang a song. And that's a part of shamanism… I also stopped people from stealing and vandalizing that sacred space, the Senate. Okay? I actually stopped somebody from stealing muffins out of the– out of the break room."

Others tweeted out the CBS video, with some saying: "giving this man a platform to whine about being a victim seems irresponsible," "Maybe you should be interviewing some of the researchers who have been following QAnon for a long time and warning about the dangers of it. But you'd rather interview Qbacca, because putting freaks on the air is good for ratings," "Why do we care about his story? WHY?! This man is a traitor and insurrection leader. WHY?!!," "What have you contributed to journalism's advancement today…nada," "Christ we love handing extremists microphones in this country," and "WHY ARE YOU ALLOWING DOMESTIC TERRORISTS AIRTIME," among many others.

The article quotes Chansley extensively, and ends with this paragraph, which reads more like a press release than a news article: "Segall's report, including her remote interview with Chansley, can be seen on 60 Minutes+, a new show available on ViacomCBS' new streaming platform, Paramount+."

Alibi For Insurrection? ’Trump Invited Us’ To Capitol

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

A lawyer for one of the insurrectionists arrested for his role in the storming of the U.S. Capitol last week is directly blaming Donald Trump for the violence, saying Trump invited the rioters to the building and deserves blame for the attack the world watched unfold on Jan. 6.

Albert Watkins, a lawyer for Jacob A. Chansley — the man who was photographed wearing a fur headdress with horns inside the Capitol building during the rioting — says Trump's rhetoric since the election amounted to an "invitation" to come to Washington, D.C., to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Chansley, also known as Jake Angeli and the "QAnon shaman," has been charged with six federal crimes for his role in the rioting.

"He felt like he was answering the call of our president," Watkins told CNN. "My client wasn't violent. He didn't cross over any police lines. He didn't assault anyone. He was there at the invitation of our president, who was going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue with him."

Watkins told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Christ, you've got a president who has been rabble-rousing for six or seven months. ... Given the peaceful and compliant fashion in which Mr. Chansley comported himself, it would be appropriate and honorable for the president to pardon Mr. Chansley and other like-minded, peaceful individuals who accepted the president's invitation with honorable intentions."

It's not only Chansley who felt he was invited by Trump to the Capitol.

Video taken during the attack shows others invading the Capitol insisting they were there on Trump's invitation as well. A man can be seen shouting to police officers trying to keep the insurrectionists out, "We were invited here. We were invited by the president of the United States."

Meanwhile, Trump and his allies claim that he never intended there to be a violent attack on the Capitol and that he only wanted peace.

During the session of the House of Representatives on Wednesday convened to vote on impeachingTrump on a single count of engaging in "high Crimes and Misdemeanors by inciting violence against the Government of the United States," Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) asked, "Has any one of those individuals who brought violence on this Capitol been brought here to answer whether they did that because of our president?" After 30 seconds of silence, Mast continued, "It appears I will receive no answer," and yielded back his time.

At least four rioters said they had.

Trump was impeached for the second time on Wednesday by a vote of 232 to 197, with 10 Republicansjoining the Democrats in voting yes.

The single article of impeachment says that Trump "willfully made statements that, in context, encouraged — and foreseeably resulted in — lawless action at the Capitol, such as: 'if you don't fight like hell you're not going to have a country anymore.'"

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Black Officers Warned Of Racism In Capitol Police For Years

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica

When Kim Dine took over as the new chief of the U.S. Capitol Police in 2012, he knew he had a serious problem.

Since 2001, hundreds of Black officers had sued the department for racial discrimination. They alleged that white officers called Black colleagues slurs like the N-word and that one officer found a hangman's noose on his locker. White officers were called "huk lovers" or "FOGs" — short for "friends of gangsters" — if they were friendly with their Black colleagues. Black officers faced "unprovoked traffic stops" from fellow Capitol Police officers. One Black officer claimed he heard a colleague say, "Obama monkey, go back to Africa."

In case after case, agency lawyers denied wrongdoing. But in an interview, Dine said it was clear he had to address the department's charged racial climate. He said he promoted a Black officer to assistant chief, a first for the agency, and tried to increase diversity by changing the force's hiring practices. He also said he hired a Black woman to lead a diversity office and created a new disciplinary body within the department, promoting a Black woman to lead it.

"There is a problem with racism in this country, in pretty much every establishment that exists," said Dine, who left the agency in 2016. "You can always do more in retrospect."

Whether the Capitol Police managed to root out racist officers will be one of many issues raised as Congress investigates the agency's failure to prevent a mob of Trump supporters from attacking the Capitol while lawmakers inside voted to formalize the electoral victory of President-elect Joe Biden.

Already, officials have suspended several police officers for possible complicity with insurrectionists, one of whom was pictured waving a Confederate battle flag as he occupied the building. One cop was captured on tape seeming to take selfies with protesters, while another allegedly wore a red "Make America Great Again" hat as he directed protesters around the Capitol building. While many officers were filmed fighting off rioters, at least 12 others are under investigation for possibly assisting them.

Two current Black Capitol Police officers told BuzzFeed News that they were angered by leadership failures that they said put them at risk as racist members of the mob stormed the building. The Capitol Police force is only 29 percent Black in a city that's 46 percent Black. By contrast, as of 2018, 52 percent of Washington Metropolitan police officers were Black. The Capitol Police are comparable to the Metropolitan force in spending, employing more than 2,300 people and boasting an annual budget of about a half-billion dollars.

The Capitol Police did not immediately respond to questions for this story.

Sharon Blackmon-Malloy, a former Capitol Police officer who was the lead plaintiff in the 2001 discrimination lawsuit filed against the department, said she was not surprised that pro-Trump rioters burst into the Capitol last week.

In her 25 years with the Capitol Police, Blackmon-Malloy spent decades trying to raise the alarm about what she saw as endemic racism within the force, even organizing demonstrations where Black officers would return to the Capitol off-duty, protesting outside the building they usually protect.

The 2001 case, which started with more than 250 plaintiffs, remains pending. As recently as 2016, a Black female officer filed a racial discrimination complaint against the department.

"Nothing ever really was resolved. Congress turned a blind eye to racism on the Hill," Blackmon-Malloy, who retired as a lieutenant in 2007, told ProPublica. She is now vice president of the U.S. Capitol Black Police Association, which held 16 demonstrations protesting alleged discrimination between 2013 and 2018. "We got Jan. 6 because no one took us seriously."

Retired Lt. Frank Adams sued the department in 2001 and again in 2012 for racial discrimination. A Black, 20-year veteran of the force, Adams supervised mostly white officers in the patrol division. He told ProPublica he endured or witnessed racism and sexism constantly. He said that before he joined the division, there was a policy he referred to as "meet and greet," where officers were directed to stop any Black person on the Hill. He also said that in another unit, he once found a cartoon on his desk of a Black man ascending to heaven only to be greeted by a Ku Klux Klan wizard. When he complained to his superior officers, he said he was denied promotions and training opportunities, and suffered other forms of retaliation.

In an interview, he drew a direct line between racism in the Capitol Police and the events that unfolded last week. He blamed Congress for not listening to Black members of the force years ago.

"They only become involved in oversight when it's in the news cycle," said Adams, who retired in 2011. "They ignored the racism happening in the department. They ignored the hate."

The department's record in other areas of policing have drawn criticism as well.

In 2015, a man landed a gyrocopter on the Capitol lawn — top officials didn't know the airborne activist was coming until minutes before he touched down. In 2013, when a lone gunman opened fire at the nearby Navy Yard, killing 12 people, the Capitol Police were criticized for standing on the sidelines. The force's leadership board later determined its actions were justified.

Last month, days after a bloody clash on Dec. 12 between militant Trump supporters and counter-protesters, Melissa Byrne and Chibundu Nnake were entering the Capitol when they saw a strangely dressed man just outside the building, carrying a spear.

He was a figure they would come to recognize — Jacob Chansley, the QAnon follower in a Viking outfit who was photographed last week shouting from the dais of the Senate chamber.

They alerted the Capitol Police at the time, as the spear seemed to violate the complex's weapons ban, but officers dismissed their concern, they said.

One officer told them that Chansley had been stopped earlier in the day, but that police "higher ups" had decided not to do anything about him.

We don't "perceive it as a weapon," Nnake recalled the officer saying of the spear.

Chansley told the Globe and Mail's Adrian Morrow that Capitol Police had allowed him in the building on Jan. 6, which would normally include passing through a metal detector, although he was later charged with entering a restricted building without lawful authority, violent entry, and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. As of Tuesday, he had not yet entered a plea.

For Byrne and Nnake, their interactions with the "QAnon Shaman" on Dec. 14 highlighted what they perceive as double standards in how the Capitol Police interact with the public.

Like many people who regularly encounter the force, Nnake and Byrne said they were accustomed to Capitol officers enforcing rules aggressively — later that day, Nnake was told that he would be tackled if he tried to advance beyond a certain point. "As a Black man, when I worked on the Hill, if I forgot a badge, I couldn't get access anywhere," he told ProPublica.

Congress, which controls the agency and its budget, has a mixed record of oversight. For the most part, Congress has been deferential toward the force, paying attention to its workings only after serious security failures, and even then, failing to meaningfully hold its leaders accountable.

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat from D.C. who is a nonvoting member of Congress, told ProPublica she believes a national commission should be formed to investigate what occurred at the Capitol on Jan. 6, similar to what followed 9/11.

"Congress deserves some of the blame," she told ProPublica. "We have complete control over the Capitol Police. ... Long-term concerns with security have been raised, and they've not been dealt with in the past."

The force has also suffered a spate of recent, internal scandals that may prove pertinent as Congress conducts its investigation.

Capitol Police officers accidently left several guns in bathrooms throughout the building in 2015 and 2019; in one instance, the loaded firearm was discovered by a small child.

The agency has been criticized for a lack of transparency for years. Capitol Police communications and documents are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act and, unlike many local law enforcement agencies, it has no external watchdog specifically assigned to investigate and respond to community complaints. The force has not formally addressed the public since the riot last week.

"All law enforcement is opaque," said Jonathan M. Smith, executive director of the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. "At least most local police departments are subject to some kind of civilian oversight, but federal police agencies are left to operate in the shadows."

The agency's past troubles have rarely resulted in reform, critics said.

After the April 2015 gyrocopter incident, Congress held a hearing to examine how 61-year-old postal worker and activist Doug Hughes managed to land his aircraft after he livestreamed his flight. Dozens of reporters and news cameras assembled in front of the Capitol to watch the stunt, which was designed to draw attention to the influence of money in politics. Capitol Police did not learn of the incoming flight until a reporter reached out to them for comment, minutes before Hughes landed.

Dine defended the force's response to the incident, pointing out that Hughes was promptly arrested and no one was hurt.

Former Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah, then the chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, harshly criticized the department and other federal agencies for what he perceived as an intelligence failure.

"The Capitol Police is terrible and pathetic when it comes to threat assessment," Chaffetz told ProPublica in an interview. "They have a couple people dedicated to it, but they're overwhelmed. Which drives me nuts. ... It's not been a priority for leadership, on both sides of the aisle." He said he is not aware of any serious changes to the force's intelligence gathering following the debacle.

Norton, who also pressed Dine at the hearing, told ProPublica the intelligence lapses surrounding the gyrocopter landing should be considered a "forerunner" to last week's riot.

"For weeks, these people had been talking about coming to the Capitol to do as much harm as they can," Norton said. "Everyone knew it. Except the Capitol Police." Reports show the force had no contingency plan to deal with an escalation of violence and mayhem at last week's rally, even though the FBI and the New York Police Department had warned them it could happen.

Law enforcement experts said that the agency is in a difficult position. While it has sole responsibility for protecting the Capitol, it must work with other nearby federal law enforcement agencies, Washington's Metropolitan Police and the National Guard in case of emergencies.

In an interview, Nick Zotos, a former D.C. National Guard commander who now works for the Department of Homeland Security, said that the roughly two dozen agencies responsible for public safety in Washington can cause territorial disputes, finger-pointing and poor communication.

"This is not a D.C. thing, necessarily, although it's probably the worst in D.C.," Zotos said. "Police departments just don't play with each other nicely."

Blackmon-Malloy told ProPublica that divisions within the Capitol Police could be just as dangerous, not only for Congress but for Black officers themselves. "Now you got to go to work on the 20th," she told ProPublica, alluding to the inauguration. "And stand next to someone who you don't even know if they have your back."

Dara Lind, David McSwane and Kirsten Berg contributed reporting.