QAnon Shaman Jacob Chansley Loses Bid for Freedom Ahead of Capitol Riot Trial

A judge sided with prosecutors in their quest to keep Jacob Chansley, also known as the QAnon shaman, in jail ahead of his trial for the role he allegedly played in the Capitol riot.

Chansley is one of the most well-known faces of the January 6 insurrection, appearing in numerous photographs bare-chested with a horned headdress on the dais of the Senate.

In an attempt to secure his client's release from prison, Chansley's attorney, Albert Watkins, argued the judge's original decision was "erroneous," based on "inaccuracies" and lacking in evidence.

Judge Royce Lamberth for the United States District Court in the District of Columbia disagreed. While he appreciated the argument, Lamberth said in a hearing that Watkins failed to present any material evidence that wasn't available when Lamberth made his original ruling to confine Chansley to the custody of the state until the trial.

Watkins also argued his client should be released because the flagpole he carried didn't constitute a "dangerous weapon," as the court previously found, and that new information showed Chansley wasn't a leader of the insurrection but a peaceful protester.

jacob chansley capitol riot qanon shaman
Jacob Chansley, aka the QAnon Shaman, failed in his attempt to secure release from prison on Wednesday ahead of his trial for the role he allegedly played in the Capitol riot. Chansley is seen at the Capital riots on January 6. Brent Stirton/Getty Images

The prosecution denied the defense presented any "new or novel" information or that the information was relevant to Chansley's ability to be detained. They argued the court correctly recognized a "dangerous man obstructing the normal functioning of the United States government."

The issue of what constitutes an official function of the government is one that Chansley's attorney is debating. One of the four charges he faces is obstruction of an official proceeding, but Watkins argued in a motion to dismiss the charge that certifying the election isn't an official proceeding. If it's not an official proceeding, Watkins argued the count must be dismissed.

Watkins also urged the judge to release his client because other defendants whose behavior was "significantly worse" than Chansley's were released.

He highlighted more than a dozen Capitol riot cases, including one where a defendant was charged with assaulting a police officer and the case of Christian Secor, who was allegedly seen sitting in former Vice President Mike Pence's seat on the Senate floor. Secor was released from prison pending trial.

The mental health state of Chansley, who was among the first to be arrested, has already been called into question, and the judge ordered him to undergo a psychological evaluation.

Being in jail until the trial, Watkins argued, is detrimental to Chansley's mental well-being.

"The pre-existing mental vulnerabilities of the Defendant were evident and patent at the time of his shirtless presentation on January 6, 2021, in the cold of a Washington, D.C., winter day. The acuity of the vulnerable Defendant has waned with each passing day of solitary confinement. The effects of same, like ivy, have slept, crept and now leapt," Watkins wrote in a court filing.

The attorney took specific issue with Chansley's lengthy solitary confinement due to COVID-19, likening the "cruel and unusual punishment" to that of a gulag described by Russian novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn. He added that confining Chansley to prison ahead of his trial, which could be a lengthy time because of the burden on the prosecution, was akin to the protocols of the Khmer Rouge.

It would "send a message that if you are special enough to believe and act with reliance on the words and actions of your standing Commander-in-Chief, you deserve neither compassion nor patience, but rather, deserve the fate of the forgotten."

Prosecutors argued Chansley is not special and is simply having to adhere to the same restrictions as all others who find detention difficult.