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QAnon Shaman’s Lawyer Called Capitol Siege Suspects Brain-Damaged ‘F***ing Short-Bus People.’ He Claims That’s Part of a Strategy.


Al Watkins, the St. Louis attorney who represents so-called “QAnon Shaman” Jacob Chansley, is defending his use of profane language to describe his own client and a few others similarly charged with playing various alleged roles in the Jan. 6th siege on the U.S. Capitol Complex. In an interview with Talking Points Memo, Watkins said Chansley’s Asperger’s Syndrome left him susceptible to being led astray by President Donald Trump’s so-called “propaganda” efforts.

“A lot of these defendants — and I’m going to use this colloquial term, perhaps disrespectfully — but they’re all fucking short-bus people,” Watkins said. “These are people with brain damage, they’re fucking retarded, they’re on the goddamn spectrum.”

“But they’re our brothers, our sisters, our neighbors, our coworkers — they’re part of our country,” Watkins continued. “These aren’t bad people, they don’t have prior criminal history. Fuck, they were subjected to four-plus years of goddamn propaganda the likes of which the world has not seen since fucking Hitler.”

Watkins confirmed to Law&Crime that the quotes were accurate.

“There is a reason and purpose behind my less than politically correct description of many who participated in the visit to the Capitol on January 6,” Watkins wrote in an email. “My long standing pleas for compassion and understanding of those involved in the events of January 6 with mental health issues and disabilities have to date fallen on deaf ears. One charged, insensitive, and vulgar statement and the needed attention is given. We live in a sound bite world. I respectfully suggest the next few days and weeks will demonstrate the prudence of this calibrated move.”

Watkins advised Law&Crime to “stand by and stay tuned,” a phrase reminiscent of Trump telling the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” — precisely the type of language Watkins said his client fell for hook, line, and sinker.

The broader TPM article questioned whether such finger-pointing defense tactics will legally work; the piece also brought up Anthony Antonio, whose attorney claimed he suffered from “Fox-itus” and “Fox-mania” after watching Fox News under lockdown while unemployed.

Two former federal prosecutors told TPM that such defense tactics might convince a judge to go soft at sentencing but would not negate a defendant’s core guilt.

A federal judge hammered Watkins for allowing a broadcast crew from “60 Minutes+” to record his client in what the judge called a “publicity stunt” interview which was “undoubtedly conducive to defense counsel’s fame.” (A judge subsequently ruled that Chansley “blatantly lied” during the now-infamous interview.) Watkins has spent some previous energy slamming Trump and even offering Chansley as a possible impeachment witness — an offer House Democrats did not accept. Near the beginning of his representation of Chansley, Watkins told Law&Crime that Chansley felt “duped” by Trump while begging for a pardon. That pardon was not forthcoming.

Chansley famously secured the provision of organic food behind bars as a matter of his religious beliefs in shamanism. He refused to eat food that was not organic, and federal prosecutors did not contest the requests.

[image of Watkins via the Law&Crime Network; image of Chansley 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.