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Jacob Chansley, the ‘Flagbearer’ and ‘Very Image’ of Jan. 6 Siege, Sentenced to More Than Three Years in Prison

Jacob Chansley is seen at the U.S. Capitol in a Jan. 6, 2021 Getty Images photo. He is also seen in a Feb. 4, 2021 mugshot released by the Alexandria, Va. Detention Center.

Jacob Chansley is seen at the U.S. Capitol in a Jan. 6, 2021 Getty Images photo. He is also seen in a Feb. 4, 2021 mugshot released by the Alexandria, Va. Detention Center.

The man who stood behind former Vice President Mike Pence’s Senate dais in a horned, coyote-fur headdress, red, white and blue face paint and a shirtless display of his tattooed torso on Jan. 6 will spend the next 41 months in a federal prison.

“He made himself the very image of the riot,” Senior U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth said in the middle of the roughly two-hour proceedings.

“What you did was terrible,” Lamberth added later in pronouncing his sentence, which fell at the lower end of the federal guidelines. “You made yourself the epitome of the riot.”

“I Was Wrong for Entering the Capitol”

Jacob Chansley, the man also known as Jake Angeli and formerly branded the “QAnon Shaman,” pleaded guilty to obstructing the congressional certification in September. His attorney Albert Watkins once compared him to the “Nike swoosh” emblem of Jan. 6.

During his sentencing remarks, Chansley said that he asked himself behind bars: “What would Jesus do?” and then “What would Gandhi do?”

Seeking a sentence higher than four years and three months, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly L. Paschall quoted Chansley’s “prayer” seeking to eliminate Trump’s supposed enemies in a decidedly unpeaceful fashion in her sentencing brief.

“Thank you Heavenly Father for gracing us with this opportunity…to allow us to send a message to all the tyrants, the communists, and the globalists, that this is our nation, not theirs,” Chansley declared on the dais of the Senate chamber on Jan. 6. “That we will not allow America, the American way of the United States of America to go down…Thank you for filling this chamber with Patriots that love you… Thank you for allowing the United States of America to be reborn. Thank you for allowing us to get rid of the communists, the globalists, and the traitors within our government.”

Chansley told the judge that he renounces his actions on that day.

“I was wrong for entering the Capitol,” Chansley told the judge. “I have no excuse, no excuse whatsoever,” calling his behavior “indefensible.”

“I am not an insurrectionist,” he added later. “I am certainly not a domestic terrorist. I am a good man who broke the law.”

In a meandering 30-minute address, Chansley bashed the news media for “controversializing” him, spoke about grappling with mental illness, compared himself to Jesus Christ and Mahatma Gandhi, and ended his address like a politician on the stump, rather than a criminal defendant awaiting his sentence:

“God bless you and may God bless the United States of America,” he declared.

The judge applauded the address, filled with praise of Lamberth’s military service, “wise” rulings and spiritual reflections about life in solitary confinement. Lamberth likened Chansley’s remarks to something that might have been said by Martin Luther King.

Before adjourning proceedings, Judge Lamberth said that Chansley will get credit for time served, which his defense calculated at 317 days. Chansley must also pay a $2,000 fine and serve an additional three years of supervised release after he has completed his sentence.

“That Is Not Peaceful, That is Chaos”

Criticizing those who would defend Chansley’s actions as “peaceful,” prosecutor Paschall told the judge on Wednesday: “If the defendant had been peaceful on that day, we would not be here.”

The prosecutor showed footage from Jan. 6 before adding: “Your honor, that is not peaceful, that is chaos.”

One of the most visible participants in the riot, prosecutor Paschall called Chansley the “flagbearer” of Jan. 6, referring to his toting a U.S. flag with a spearheaded-tip. The government does not claim that Chansley assaulted anybody, unlike the more than 200 people facing such accusations. Still, Paschall noted, the grim context of the day belied Chansley’s claims of a peaceful intent.

As he entered the chambers, Chansley shouted “time’s up motherfuckers,” and he left a note for Pence at that dais, stating: “It’s only a matter of time. Justice is coming!”

VP Pence note

Jacob “QAnon Shaman” Chansley left this note for ex-Vice President Mike Pence after stepping behind the dais during the U.S. Capitol siege, prosecutors say.

Prosecutors noted that Chansley was prolific—and threatening—on social media before the siege of the U.S. Capitol, writing on Facebook on Nov. 19, 2020: “We shall have no real hope to survive the enemies arrayed against us until we hang the traitors lurking among us.”

After the attack on the Capitol, Chansley appeared exultant in press interviews, telling NBC News: “The fact that we had a bunch of our traitors in office hunker down, put on their gas masks and retreat into their underground bunker, I consider that a win.”

“Don’t Think the Justice System Will Stand Idly By”

For the prosecutor, the sentencing needed to send the message to those who would interrupt the democratic process: “Don’t think that the justice system will stand idly by while you try to end that peaceful transfer of power. Don’t.”

After his arrest, Chansley’s subsequent appearance with his mother on 60 Minutes+—in which he repeated his false belief that the election was stolen and his mother claimed her son merely walked through open doors—spectacularly backfired, leading Judge Lamberth to keep him behind bars pending trial. The self-styled shaman spent some of his incarceration to date in solitary confinement, which his attorney Albert Watkins claims exacerbated his client’s mental illness.

“It is now time for all Americans to wake up to the role mental health vulnerabilities play in society and bring to the fore the compassion and patience required to eliminate the social stigma associated with mental illness,” Watkins wrote in a press release announcing Chansley diagnosis of schizotypal personality disorder.

In court, Watkins argued that the U.S. Navy failed his client when he was “pie-faced young man” serving as a supply clerk seaman apprentice some 15 years ago, when he was first diagnosed. The defense attorney, who previously referred to Jan. 6 rioters as “short-bus people,” speculated that Chansley may not have been in court for sentencing had he been properly treated.

“Tragically, that decision in 2006 is impacting us today,” Watkins claimed, saying that Chansley has “endured” the entirety of his 317 days in pre-trial incarceration alone.

In their legal brief, prosecutors argued that a heavy sentence is needed to demonstrate that “crimes committed against this country and democracy will be prosecuted and punished in accordance with the law.”

[image via SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images, Alexandria Detention Center]

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."