Jake Angeli is cooperating with FBI agents investigating Jan. 6 raid, says attorney seeking his release

Jake Angeli, who supports QAnon, chants during a rally to open the state at Wesley Bolin Plaza in Phoenix on May 3, 2020.
Jake Angeli, who supports QAnon, chants during a rally to open the state at Wesley Bolin Plaza in Phoenix on May 3, 2020.

An attorney for Jake Angeli, the Phoenix man who became a signature figure in the Jan. 6 raid on the U.S. Capitol when he participated with painted face and a fur helmet with horns, argued Wednesday his client poses no danger and should be released from jail.

Angeli, according to his attorney, has also been cooperating with federal authorities, including providing them with video footage. Angeli has detailed for the FBI how he traveled to D.C. in January, his attorney said.

In arguments held by telephone in the Washington, D.C., circuit court, Albert Watkins argued that his client, Angeli, was a peaceful man who was languishing while being held in solitary confinement.

Watkins said that even the most mentally fit person would “turn into a blithering idiot” under such conditions.

Judge Royce Lamberth ended the hearing by saying he would consider the matter and issue a ruling shortly.

Angeli appeared telephonically for the hearing from a Colorado facility where he was taken this month for a court-ordered mental health examination.

That examination, Watkins said, has been completed and a doctor told Angeli that a report would be submitted to the judge soon.

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Until being moved to Colorado, Angeli had been held in solitary confinement in a D.C.-area jail as he awaited trial on six federal charges related to his actions in the Capitol building. Those actions included leaving a note for then-Vice President Mike Pence on the U.S. Senate dais that the government described as threatening.

Angeli was charged under his legal name of Jacob Chansley, but identified himself as Jake Angeli as he became an increasingly vocal and visible presence at protests and rallies throughout the Phoenix area since at least 2019.

Angeli giving information to the FBI

In Wednesday’s hearing, Watkins told the court that his client had given “protracted debriefings” to the government, including providing them with video. Angeli has also told the government how exactly he arranged his travel to D.C. in January, including giving the FBI the name of a person who gave him cash to help with the trip.

Such actions, which were not part of any plea negotiations, “demonstrated the wholesale commitment by the defendant to do what is right for the country,” Watkins said.

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An assistant U.S. attorney, Jim Nelson, told the court that it wasn’t being presented with any new material facts that would compel it to reverse its order, calling Watkins’s assertions “recycled arguments and reworded hyperbole.”

Nelson also said that any release of Angeli would be premature and should wait for the results of the mental health evaluation.

“If the defendant is actually incompetent, then the court can’t release him,” Nelson said. “We have to go through the civil commitment proceedings to have him held.”

Angeli only spoke once during the hearing, responding to the judge asking if he could hear the proceedings with a single sentence.

“Yes, your honor, I can,” he said.

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Angeli had been known for his vociferousness as he shouted invectives against politicians at rallies and protests, or alone standing outside the Arizona Capitol.

He appeared in the same garb that would become infamous after Jan. 6. He would be shirtless, showing off elaborate tattoos, a painted face and the hat topped with horns, with two wolf-like tails that draped his face.

He routinely carried a cardboard sign that read, “Q Sent Me,” a nod to his belief in the QAnon conspiracy theory that, at its core, imagined then-President Donald Trump was investigating a global ruling cabal involved in sex crimes against children.

Angeli traveled to D.C. in a car, driving along with one other person, Watkins told the court on Wednesday. Angeli was given $500 cash by someone whom Angeli named during his interviews with the FBI, Watkins said. "The government knows who it is," he said.

Angeli, according to court filings, said he headed to D.C. on Jan. 6 because he felt called by Trump to gather with other like-minded patriots to hear his speech that morning near the U.S. Capitol.

In that speech, held on the day a joint session of Congress was meeting to certify Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election, Trump urged his audience to head toward the Capitol.

Angeli and scores of others followed in what became a mob takeover of the nation’s legislative chambers. One officer died, more than 100 were assaulted and dozens were injured. Four rioters died, including one who was shot by police. Lawmakers were sent scrambling to safety, returning to the floor to certify the election that evening, after officers cleared the Capitol.

The events inside the Capitol were captured both by security cameras and those held aloft by people inside. In those images, Angeli was seen, with his signature spear in one hand, climbing scaffolding and squaring off with officers.

He also strutted into the U.S. Senate chamber and, disregarding an officer’s request to stop, posed for a picture on the dais. He also left a note for Pence and read it aloud: "It’s only a matter of time,” the note read. “Justice is coming!”

'Detachment from reality'

Angeli’s attorney argued, in a June 22 filing, that his client was being unfairly treated because he had become one of the symbols of the U.S. Capitol riot, akin, he wrote, to the Nike swoosh. Watkins said this case deviated from norms because mainline prosecutors were being “usurped by those higher up the chain of (Department of Justice) command who seek to control the optics.”

Angeli’s image has been routinely seen in photos and videos accompanying news stories about the raid. His unique attire has also served as comedic shorthand and fodder for late-night comics. Most recently, his likeness was used in Sunday’s “Doonesbury” comic strip.

The hearing on Wednesday was asking Lamberth to reconsider his March ruling that kept Angeli locked up.

In that ruling, Lamberth cited comments Angeli made in an interview with the CBS News show, “60 Minutes+” that the judge said showed Angeli did not show remorse nor understand the gravity of his actions.

That he didn’t know what he did wrong meant that he could repeat the behavior if released, Lamberth ruled.

“Defendant's perception of his actions on January 6 as peaceful, benign, and well-intentioned shows a detachment from reality," Lamberth wrote.

In the interview, his first since his arrest, Angeli said he committed no violent acts while in the Capitol. “I didn’t break any windows. I didn’t break any doors. I didn’t cross any police barricades,” he told the CBS reporter. “I was peaceful. I was civil. I was calm.”

Lamberth also cited security footage that showed that as Angeli walked into the Capitol through an open door, other rioters were climbing through a broken window feet away from him. The judge said that footage showed that Angeli, whom he said was easily identifiable in the footage because of his attire, was part of a riotous entry into the building.

“He quite literally spearheaded it,” the judge wrote in that ruling.

How much of a threat Angeli poses has been a subject of contention since he was arrested in Phoenix, after making the drive back from Washington, D.C., and voluntarily heading to an FBI office for what he assumed was merely the continuation of questioning.

A report prepared in advance of his first court hearing in Phoenix recommended that Angeli, who has no criminal record, be released with travel restrictions and a requirement he get a job and submit to random drug testing.

But Magistrate Judge Deborah Fine dismissed the recommendation and ordered him held. Part of her reasoning was that while Angeli had been highly visible, it was only in his painted face and horn hat. Fine said the man on the video monitor in the courtroom, with no face paint and wearing orange prison garb, was unrecognizable.

“He has made himself notorious,” Fine said from the bench at that Jan. 15 hearing in Phoenix, “but he also has the ability to be anonymous."

Prosecutors also noted that Angeli had expressed interest in traveling back to D.C. to attend the inauguration of President Joe Biden.

Angeli was ordered transferred to D.C. and placed in a jail that would accommodate his requests, based on his religious beliefs, for an all-organic diet.

In March, Lamberth again ordered that Angeli be held in custody, despite Watkins’ argument that many other defendants charged with similar or worse crimes had been released.

Lamberth said that Angeli had not only failed to understand his crimes, but also that his argument that he was following the orders of Trump showed an “inability (or refusal) to exercise his independent judgment and conform his behavior to the law.”

In May, Lamberth ordered that Angeli undergo a mental examination to determine his competency to stand trial. On June 10, Angeli was moved to a federal facility in Littleton, Colorado, for that exam.

In filings before the court, Watkins has argued both that his client was peaceful, so much so that Angeli reportedly releases insects rather than smooshing them dead, and mentally feeble.

“The Defendant is a sweet, gentle, well spoken, smart man whose longstanding commitment to all that is peace and non-violence is second in duration only to his recognized mental vulnerabilities,” Watkins wrote in a motion filed with the court on June 22.

In an interview with Talking Points Memo, Watkins was more pointed about Angeli and other clients he’s representing facing charges for their actions in the Jan. 6 raid. Watkins said the accused were mentally feeble and easily swayed by the words of Trump. Watkins said they were “short bus” people and called them “retarded,” a term whose casual use has been deemed an insult by advocates for the intellectually disabled.

In another development, Watkins filed motions with the court on Tuesday asking the court order prosecutors to be more specific with charges and asking the judge to dismiss the most serious charge against Angeli.

That charge accuses Angeli of obstructing or impeding an official proceeding, or attempting to do so. That crime comes with a mandated penalty of 20 years.

Watkins, in his motion, said the indictment filed to specify what official proceeding Angeli was supposedly disrupting. It also argued that the certification of an election does not constitute an official proceeding under the statute, which Watkins said, was intended to apply to judicial proceedings.

“This is undoubtedly a case of the Government overcharging a person for conduct that is more specifically proscribed elsewhere,” Watkins wrote.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Jake Angeli, QAnon shaman, talking with FBI about Jan. 6 raid