Jacob Chansley, the 33-year-old who notoriously stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 carrying a spear and a bullhorn while wearing a horned headpiece made of coyote skin, pleaded guilty on Friday to obstruction of an official proceeding—the most serious charge against him.
While six initial charges against him could have landed the Phoenix, Arizona, native in prison for upwards of 28 years, the plea deal he struck with feds now for the singular charge means he will face far less. Prosecutors now say that Chansley faces up to 51 months in prison.
During the Friday plea hearing, Chansley’s defense attorney insisted that his client—who quickly emerged as the face of the Capitol riot—was no longer a Trump-sympathizing conspiracy theorist. Now, Al Watkins told Judge Royce C. Lamberth, Chansley wants a second chance after showing “a great deal of astuteness during the review” of the plea agreement.
“I am very appreciative for the court’s willingness to have me and my mental vulnerabilities evaluated,” Chansley said after Lamberth said he has determined him mentally competent.
“God bless you and thank you for what you do for our country,” Chansley added to the judge during the hearing, which began with several people yelling “FREEDOM” before being muted by the court.
The guilty plea comes one day after Watkins said in a statement to The Daily Beast that his client, “a long avowed and practicing Shaman, has repudiated the ‘Q’ previously assigned to him and requests future references to him be devoid of use of the letter ‘Q’.” In a press conference after the sentencing, Watkins also confirmed that his client has “repudiated the Q”—and referred to him as “The Shaman.”
“Jacob Chansley, he loves his country, he came to D.C. at the special insistence and call of the president. In his mind he was helping his president save the country,” Watkins said during the Zoom press conference. “Today, Jake made a monumental step toward doing right by our nation, and doing right by himself.”
Watkins added on Friday that his client’s decision to plead guilty was difficult since he was under “a great deal of familial pressure” not to accept the government’s deal—because they believe President Donald Trump will come back to the White House and pardon him.
While arguing for Chansley’s release in court, Watkins also noted on Friday that after his client voluntarily surrendered three days after the insurrection, he has not been disruptive in jail—where he has been largely held in solitary confinement. That time, he said, allowed Chansley to “recapture his acuity.”
“Mr. Chansley has zero criminal history, he was not a planner, he was not violent. He’s been cooperative at all times, including with the psychiatrist,” the defense lawyer said during the hearing, adding that the man deserved to be released “to move forward with his getting well.”
Assistant Attorney General Kimberly Pashall argued Friday that Chansley should be detained pending sentencing because “we are concerned about the safety of the community.”
Lamberth did not make an immediate decision on whether to release Chansley ahead of his sentencing on Nov. 17, saying he would take the matter under “advisement.”
As one of the first people to breach the Capitol and storm the Senate chamber, Chansley was infamously photographed in his eccentric outfit alongside a group of like-minded MAGA rioters. According to a criminal complaint, Chansley was among a small group that stormed the Senate chamber—along with an Air Force vet holding zip ties and an armed Alabama man who said God told him to enter the building.
After getting into the chamber “by the grace of God,” Chansley admitted to authorities he was glad he sat in Vice President Mike Pence’s chair at his desk in the Senate Chamber. He said he sat down in the Senate dais seat because Pence “is a child-trafficking traitor,” according to court documents.
“It’s only a matter of time, justice is coming,” the note read, though Chansley claimed to the FBI that he didn’t mean it as a threat.
Chansley didn’t wait long to admit his crimes to federal authorities.
On Jan. 7, he called the FBI to admit he was at the riots and that “he came ... with other ‘patriots’ from Arizona, at the request of the President that all ‘patriots’ come to D.C.,” a criminal complaint states.
He was arrested on Jan. 9 and charged with six offenses, including civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, disorderly conduct in a restricted building, and demonstrating in a Capitol building.
The feds noted that Chansley was a key participant in the Capitol riots and the “self-proclaimed leader” of QAnon, a violent conspiracy theory falsely holding that nonexistent pedophiles and cannibals in the Democratic Party will be arrested and executed.
In another January memo, prosecutors said that Chansley lied to authorities about his drug use—telling them he only smoked weed “three times weekly in the past” even as he bragged on a podcast about taking mushrooms and peyote regularly.
“Additionally, a full portrait of Chansley’s apparent mental health issues—which he has publicly-disseminated, and which include strongly-held, false mystical beliefs and leadership in a dangerous extremist group, QAnon, founded on an imaginary conspiracy theory—were not [disclosed by him],” the memo says, adding that Chansley has previously said he thinks he’s “an alien.”
Since his arrest, Chansey has made headlines for his multiple attempts to get out of jail before his trial, his demand for organic food behind bars because of his supposed Shaman faith, and going on national TV while incarcerated. After claiming that he had not eaten in nine days because his Shaman faith barred him from eating the non-organic food provided in jail, Chansey was ultimately granted his dietary request.
Watkins previously told The Daily Beast after his client’s arrest that Chansley had “gone through a period of introspection” and realized that he made himself “open to the propaganda from the former president.” One major factor toward his wake-up call came after Trump apparently snubbed a pardon request from Chansley and other Capitol rioters.
“He has come to grasp that fact that the former president really didn’t love him and that all the bullshit about Trump’s army and all the social media-driven conspiracy theories led to a lot of the vulnerability,” Watkins, told The Daily Beast in February.
Of course, at least one other QAnon-er implicated in the riots has sung a similar tune. But allegedly reformed Iowan Douglas Jensen was thrown back in jail for streaming MyPillow Guy Mike Lindell while out on bail.