PHOENIX - Jacob Chansley, the spear-carrying Jan. 6 rioter whose horned fur hat, bare chest and face paint made him one of the more recognizable figures in the assault on the Capitol, was sentenced Wednesday to 41 months in prison.
Prosecutors had recommended that the 33-year-old Arizona man receive a 51-month sentence for his role in the insurrection, which would be the longest prison term for anyone charged in the riot.
Chansley, who pleaded guilty to a felony charge of obstructing an official proceeding, was among the first rioters to enter the building. He has acknowledged using a bullhorn to rile up the mob, offering thanks in a prayer while in the Senate for having the chance to get rid of traitors and scratching out a threatening note to Vice President Mike Pence saying, "It’s Only A Matter of Time. Justice Is Coming!"
Though Chansley isn’t accused of violence, prosecutors say Chansley was the "public face of the Capitol riot" who went into the attack with a weapon, ignored repeated police orders to leave the building and gloated about his actions in the days immediately after the attack.
"Enter the capital illegally and encourage the queue, so he should be held responsible and I hope he learns his lesson from this," said Arizona Congressman Ruben Gallego (D).
Chansley spoke before he was sentenced
Phoenix area artist Maggie Keane, who was hired as a sketch artist for Chansley's federal court appearance in Phoenix, said she remembers his defiant demeanor.
"Saying he didn’t do anything wrong, and what’s going to happen to him, basically busy, didn’t do anything wrong," said Keane.
However, after being behind bars during the 10 months that followed, Chansley apparently changed his tune after unsuccessfully asking ex-President Donald Trump for a pardon and starting a hunger strike until he could eat organic food.
Before he was sentenced, Chansley told U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth it was wrong for him to enter the Capitol and that he accepts responsibility for his actions. He emphasized he wasn’t an insurrectionist and is troubled with the way he was portrayed in news stories in the aftermath of the riot.
"I have no excuse," Chansley said. "No excuses whatsoever. My behavior is indefensible."
The judge said Chansley’s remorse appeared to be genuine but noted the seriousness of his actions in the Capitol.
"What you did was terrible," Lamberth said. "You made yourself the center of the riot."
"He is respectful of this court and everyone involved in this case," said attorney Albert Watkins. "For having put himself in this position, he is absolutely embracing being held accountable for that."
Chansley's mother, Martha, said she is disappointed with the sentencing.
"Of course I'm disappointed that he's not on his way home," said Martha.
Martha said her son is a good man who never meant for it to get so out of hand.
"He's just a shaman. That's his shaman outfit. He was going there with, you know, good intentions. Nothing more than to support President Trump," said Martha. "If he thought the end result of going would put him where he is right now, he would never have done that. He would never have done that."
Chansley stood out during insurrection
The image of Chansley holding a flagpole topped with a spear tip and looking as if he were howling was one of the most striking to emerge from the riot. He previously called himself the "QAnon Shaman" but has since repudiated the QAnon movement, which is centered on the baseless belief that former President Donald Trump was fighting a cabal of Satan-worshipping, child sex trafficking cannibals.
He is among 650 people charged in the riot that forced lawmakers into hiding as they were meeting to certify President Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. More than 120 defendants have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanor charges of demonstrating in the Capitol that carry a maximum of six months in prison.
Chansley and Scott Fairlamb, a New Jersey gym owner sentenced last week for punching a police officer during the attack, have received the longest prison sentences out of the 38 Capitol riot defendants who have been punished so far.
Chansley, who has been in jail for 10 months, sought to be sentenced to time served. His lawyer, Albert Watkins, said his client has longstanding mental health problems that were worsened by being held in solitary confinement due to COVID-19 protocols and is in dire need of mental health treatment.
In the year before the Capitol riot, Chansley appeared in costume at pro-Trump events, protests over face mask requirements and at a gathering of Trump supporters in November 2020 outside an election office in downtown Phoenix where votes from the presidential race were being counted.
His attorney has said Chansley was "horrendously smitten" by Trump and believed like other rioters that Trump had called him to the Capitol, but later felt betrayed after Trump refused to grant him and others who participated in the insurrection a pardon.
Watkins has said Chansley had been under pressure from family members not to plead guilty because they believed Trump would be reinstated as president and pardon him.
After spending his first month in jail, Chansley said he re-evaluated his life, felt regret for having stormed the building and apologized for causing fear in others.
He twice quit eating while in jail and lost 20 pounds until he was given organic food.
The judge had previously rejected Chansley’s claims that the six-foot flagpole he carried during the riot wasn’t a weapon and that the metal spear tip was an ornament, saying the sharpened six-inch point could have been used to stab people from a distance.
The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.
- Prosecutors seek 51-month sentence for ‘QAnon Shaman’ Jacob Chansley
- Arizona man known as 'QAnon Shaman' pleads guilty in Capitol riot case
- So-called 'QAnon Shaman' to get organic food in jail following judge's ruling
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