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‘QAnon Shaman’ Pleads Not Guilty, Asks Federal Judge for Organic Food Behind Bars After Not Eating All Week


WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: A protester screams "Freedom" inside the Senate chamber after the U.S. Capitol was breached by a mob during a joint session of Congress on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden's 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. A group of Republican senators said they would reject the Electoral College votes of several states unless Congress appointed a commission to audit the election results. Pro-Trump protesters entered the U.S. Capitol building during demonstrations in the nation's capital.

An attorney for Jacob Chansley, the so-called “QAnon Shaman” who was photographed profusely during a siege on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, asked a federal judge on Friday to ensure Chansley was being fed organic food while in jail in Washington, D.C., pending trial.

Attorney Al Watkins told the judge that his “client is a man of faith in Shamanism — a long-standing faith — and his dietary restrictions” connected to that faith required that he only eat food that is organic.

Watkins cited “health issues” and an “unpleasant” and “protracted” “bacterial response” if Chansley eats food that is not organic. He said that Chansley has not eaten since Monday.

A government attorney said she expected that Chansley would get the same “treatment all defendants get” at the D.C. jail — a reference to religious liberties being accommodated behind bars. The government did not object to Chansley’s dietary request.

“I’m going to be very humble with you,” Watkins said when asked by the judge for more information about Shamanism. “I have a wholesale absence of appreciation for the nuance — nuances of shamanism. I am aware of the fact that it is recognized as a faith . . . closely associated with nature and wildlife and spirits.”

Watkins said he studied geology and that his client could expound about Shamanism “with a greater degree of detail” if necessary in the future.

“I understand,” the judge said. “I think we’ll all learn more.”

Conversation then turned to a “mid-century” art piece hanging behind Watkins in the video call. Watkins knew a lot more about that.

Watkins said his primary concern Friday was “health and safety of my client” with regards to “food consumption” and that he hoped the matter would be addressed quickly.

Watkins also said that the D.C. facility where Chansley is being held has been “overwhelmingly” cooperative thus far.

The judge praised all parties present and said they should “continue to cooperate together” because doing so “makes everything better for the system and for the court.”

According to online federal court records, the proceeding, an arraignment, included a “not guilty” plea by Chansley.

The first 10 minutes of the proceeding were not audible to reporters who listened via teleconference. Court proceedings largely remain restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The attorneys present put off more weighty legal matters, such as whether Chansley would request a speedy trial and whether or not a bond review was necessary.

A status conference was scheduled for March 5 at 10 a.m.

A federal grand jury indicted Chansley on six counts:  (1) civil disorder; (2) obstruction of an official proceeding; (3) entering and remaining in a restricted building; (4) disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building; (5) violent entry and disorderly conduct in a capitol building; (6) and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a capitol building.

The organic food request is nothing new. Chansley didn’t eat in Arizona while incarcerated there.

A federal judge in Arizona ordered Chansley moved to the D.C. district on Jan. 19. All of the federal prosecutions of alleged D.C. rioters are being handled in the nation’s capital. Rule 18 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure requires prosecutors to prosecute cases in the “district where the offense was committed.” The Sixth Amendment analogously requires the jury to be selected from “the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.”

[image via Win McNamee/Getty Images]

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now deputy editor-in-chief for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only. You should not rely on it for legal advice. Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.