'QAnon Shaman' sentenced to more than 3 years in prison for role in Jan. 6 attack

The sentence matches the longest handed down to any Jan. 6 participant so far.

November 17, 2021, 1:47 PM

Jacob Chansley, the self-described "QAnon Shaman" who infamously marched through the U.S. Capitol with a spear and horned helmet during the Jan. 6 riot, was sentenced Wednesday to 41 months in prison for his role in the attack.

It matches the longest sentence handed down to any Jan. 6 participant, following the 41-month sentence handed down last week to Scott Fairlam, a former mixed martial arts fighter who pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer during the riot.

"What you did here was horrific," Judge Royce Lamberth said during the sentencing hearing. "It is the type of conduct that is so serious that I cannot justify downward departure [from sentencing recommendations]."

Chansley -- who wasn't accused of assaulting law enforcement or destroying property -- pleaded guilty on Sept. 3 to one felony count of unlawfully obstructing an official proceeding.

On Wednesday, prior to sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Paschall played social media recordings of Chansley in the Senate chamber, chanting what sounded like a bizarre prayer and blowing a bullhorn.

"That is not peaceful," Paschall said. "That is chilling."

PHOTO: Jacob Chansley climbs scaffolding as demonstrators swarm the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., Jan. 6, 2021.
Jacob Chansley climbs scaffolding as demonstrators swarm the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., Jan. 6, 2021.
Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE

Chansley, who was almost unrecognizable as he addressed the court in a plain jail-issued dark green jumpsuit, said he was "a good man who broke the law" and implored Judge Lamberth to "judge a tree by its roots" in considering his sentence. "I am in no way, shape, or form a violent criminal. I am not an insurrectionist. I am certainly not a domestic terrorist," he said. "I hope that you see my heart."

"I was wrong for entering the Capitol. I have no excuse -- no excuse whatsoever," Chansley said. "In retrospect, I'd do everything differently on Jan. 6 … I would try with all my heart and soul to stop people."

"I think the hardest part about this is that I know that I'm to blame," he added. "I hope that you see my remorse is genuine."

Chansley spoke confidently as he addressed the court, making direct eye contact with Judge Lamberth as he referenced the bible and recited quotes from writer Max De Pree and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to argue that he is not the same person who stormed the Capitol.

"I want to grow beyond what it is that I was," Chansley said.

Lamberth, in response, called Chansley’s remarks "the most remarkable I’ve heard in my 34 years ... akin to the types of things Martin Luther King might have said."

Before Chansley spoke, his attorney, Albert Watkins, addressed his client’s mental health struggles that he had earlier described as "significant but secreted vulnerabilities, hardships, and societal neglect," and said Chansley is prepared to accept his role in the insurrection.

"[Chansley’s] role in this horrible day, this assault on democracy, was repugnant," Watkins said. But he pleaded with the judge to consider "the rest of the story" -- referring to his client’s mental health challenges – in determining a sentence. "This case has not occurred in a vacuum," he said.

Prosecutors called Chansley a key figure in the Capitol attack.

"The government cannot overstate the seriousness of the defendant's conduct as one of the most prominent figures of the historic riot on the Capitol on January 6, 2021," prosecutors said in their filing. "The defendant was among the first 30 rioters to penetrate the U.S. Capitol building. The defendant then stalked the hallowed halls of the building, riling up other members of the mob with his screaming obscenities about our nation's lawmakers, and flouting the 'opportunity' to rid our government of those he has long considered to be traitors."

Multiple videos and images showed Chansley carrying his spear into the Senate chamber, where prosecutors say he led a group of rioters in a prayer on the dais and left a menacing note behind for then-Vice President Mike Pence.

"It's Only A Matter of Time. Justice Is Coming!" the note read.

According to a brief presented to a judge in January, "Chansley is a high-profile leader and the self-professed shaman of QAnon." In September, Chansley's attorney said his client had rejected the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Watkins, arguing that his client suffers from significant mental health vulnerabilities, last week asked for a sentence "significantly below" the 51 months being sought by prosecutors.

"This case is about a remarkable, gentle, kind, smart, spiritual, nonviolent young man," Watkins said. "He seeks not to be seen as a political prisoner. He seeks not to blame a former president for his actions. He seeks not to justify his actions with any explanation. He seeks solely to be held accountable."

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