DOJ counters QAnon Shaman’s bid to toss his Jan. 6 sentence

Dario Lopez-Mills/AP Photo

The Justice Department on Tuesday blasted as “meritless” a bid by Jan. 6 rioter Jacob Chansley — famously known as the QAnon Shaman — to unravel his conviction for obstructing Congress’ proceedings on Jan. 6, 2021, which landed him in prison for more than two years.

Chansley’s legal effort, fueled by Capitol surveillance footage provided to Fox News’ Tucker Carlson by Speaker Kevin McCarthy, distorts the “overwhelming” evidence of his criminality, argued Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Paschall in a blistering 31-page filing. In fact, Carlson’s footage covered roughly four minutes of Chansley’s trip through the Capitol and was nearly all subsequent to the most egregious examples of his conduct that day, the prosecutor wrote.

“The Tucker Carlson footage primarily shows Chansley’s movements from approximately 2:56 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Prior to that time, Chansley had, amongst other acts, breached a police line at 2:09 p.m. with the mob on the Capitol steps … and faced off with members of the U.S. Capitol Police for more than thirty minutes in front of the Senate Chamber doors while elected officials, including the vice president of the United States, fled,” Paschall wrote. “Chansley then entered the Senate Gallery unescorted at 2:52 p.m., where he proceeded to scream obscenities, while other rioters rifled through the desks of U.S. Senators on the floor below.”

“All these actions were captured by Senate floor cameras, a journalist’s footage, MPD body-worn cameras, other rioter’s footage, and/or Capitol CCV cameras; all of these actions were before the footage in question,” Paschall continued.

Chansley has claimed that the clips aired by Carlson were a new wrinkle in his long-winding case that he deserved access to before pleading guilty — that it showed him being “escorted” by police. He claimed that his previous lawyer shouldn’t have agreed to the terms of prosecutors’ plea offer before having a chance to review all surveillance footage from that day.

But DOJ’s Tuesday filing skewered that argument, contending the vast majority of the footage had been turned over to Chansley and his previous lawyer in advance of his guilty plea and sentencing. And that, in some cases, the footage Chansley’s lawyer had access to at the time was even more detailed than what Carlson aired.

For example, DOJ indicated that by May 2021, Chansley’s lawyer had obtained body-worn camera footage from two D.C. police officers who observed Chansley walking through the halls with a Capitol Police officer, Keith Robishaw, en route to the Senate chamber. (The scene was among those aired by Carlson, but the surveillance footage lacks audio, unlike body-worn cameras, which capture sound.)

And Robishaw’s explanation for his actions has been well-known. Footage shows he had been trying to convince Chansley and others to leave the chamber, only for his requests to go ignored — until a phalanx of D.C. officers surged into the chamber and cleared it of remaining rioters.

U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth sentenced Chansley in November 2021 to 41 months in jail at the time after Chansley delivered a stirring speech about the depth of his “repentance” — a speech that Lamberth said moved him to sentence Chansley to the lowest end of the range his plea agreement called for. Chansley was released earlier this year after a stint at a halfway house, and he has since embarked on a publicity tour, appearing on podcasts and granting media interviews.

Lamberth has not made his views on Chansley’s latest effort known, but he has previously expressed frustration with defendants who professed remorse in his courtroom only to reverse themselves afterward.

Paschall noted that Lamberth was effusive in praise for Chansley’s apparent remorse, calling his comments “the most remarkable I've heard in 34 years.”

“I think you are genuine in your remorse,” Lamberth said. “You've certainly done everything you could today to convince the Court that you're a new person, and I think you're on the right track.”

But the judge also said at the time that he viewed a 41-month sentence as appropriate because of the gravity of Chansley’s conduct. “It's such a serious crime that I just can't go all the way, even though you now recognize,” Lamberth siad. “But you said today what you did was wrong. You know what you did was wrong.”

Notably, Paschall indicated that if Chansley’s effort were successful, it wouldn’t result in the dismissal of the case against him altogether.

“Rather, Chansley’s guilty plea would be withdrawn, the charges in the indictment would be reinstated, and the case would proceed to trial — where Chansley, if convicted, could face up to 20 years’ imprisonment,” she wrote. “Chansley, therefore, may wish to consider whether the “relief” that he could obtain through these claims is truly preferable to preserving the benefits of the Plea Agreement.”