Prosecutors seek 51-month sentence for Arizona’s ‘QAnon Shaman’

Nov 10, 2021, 11:37 AM | Updated: 11:46 am
Jacob Chansley. (Alexandria Sheriff's Office, AP File Photos)...
Jacob Chansley. (Alexandria Sheriff's Office, AP File Photos)
(Alexandria Sheriff's Office, AP File Photos)

PHOENIX – Federal prosecutors are seeking more than four years in prison for Jacob Chansley, but the Arizona man who pleaded guilty for his role in breaching the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 while dressed in his infamous “QAnon Shaman” outfit wants his detention to end next week.

A 28-page Justice Department sentencing memo filed Tuesday night requests a prison term of 51 months – the high end of guidelines — plus three years of supervised release and $2,000 in restitution.

The defendant’s 23-page sentencing memo, meanwhile, asks for a sentence of time served, which would come out to under 11 months if granted at the Nov. 17 sentencing hearing.

The prosecutors’ memo from the office of Matthew Graves, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, says the longer sentence would be serve as a deterrent to others.

“The government submits that such a sentence would be an appropriate one, which would serve to protect the community, punish the defendant for his criminal conduct, and deter others from committing similar offenses,” the memo says.

In the defendant’s memo, attorney Albert Watkins rebuts the idea that a longer sentence would deter others and notes that most of his client’s time in custody has been spent in solitary confinement because of COVID-19 protocols.

Watkins also argues that Chansley’s difficult childhood and mental health should be taken into account and makes two references to Forrest Gump – misspelled as “Forest” – the slow-witted movie character who repeatedly winds up witnessing and influencing major historic moments.

Watkins’ memo says Chansley’s “gait and apparent Forest Gump-like obliviousness” were indicative of “mental health vulnerabilities.”

“Defendant respectfully requests that the Court impose a sentence significantly below the range of sentencing recommended under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, recognizing the harshness of the conditions surrounding time served to date, and impose such sentence as permits Mr. Chansley to proceed hence with his pursuit of his mental and physical health prioritized,” Watkins’ memo says.

Chansley pleaded guilty on Sept. 3 to obstructing an official proceeding, a felony. According to the plea deal, guidelines called for a sentence of 41 to 51 months. He was originally indicted Jan. 11 on six counts but had five charges dismissed through the plea.

The Arizona man has become a symbol of the Jan. 6 Capitol incursion because of his flamboyant appearance – with face paint, bare and tattooed torso and fuzzy hat with horns.

More than 100 law enforcement officers were injured during the riot, according to prosecutors. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick collapsed and died after rioters sprayed him with a chemical irritant.

Before Jan. 6, Chansley, a rabid promoter of the QAnon conspiracy theory, had been a fixture at rallies for then-President Donald Trump and various protests in Phoenix, impossible to miss in his flamboyant costume.

Chansley was among the first wave of pro-Trump rioters to force its way into the Capitol building during a siege that prompted lawmakers to go into hiding as they were meeting to certify President Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory.

He yelled into a bullhorn as officers tried to control the crowd, posed for photos and referred to then-Vice President Mike Pence as a traitor. He also wrote a note to Pence saying, “It’s only a matter of time, justice is coming.”

More than 650 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the events of Jan. 6, including more than 100 accused of assaulting law enforcement officers.

A New Jersey gym owner who punched a police officer was sentenced Wednesday to more than three years in prison, a likely benchmark for dozens of other rioters who engaged in violence that day.

Scott Fairlamb, 44, was the first person to be sentenced for assaulting a law enforcement officer during the Capitol riot. His 41-month prison term is the longest among 32 riot-related sentences handed down so far.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Prosecutors seek 51-month sentence for Arizona’s ‘QAnon Shaman’