QAnon shaman Jacob Chansley appeals conviction in Trump Capitol riot case
Jacob Chansley, holding a sign referencing QAnon, speaks as supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather to protest about the early results of the 2020 presidential election, in front of the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center (MCTEC), in Phoenix, Arizona November 5, 2020.
Cheney Orr | Reuters
Jacob Chansley, the so-called QAnon shaman, on Tuesday filed an appeal seeking to void his guilty plea and 41-month prison sentence for his notorious role in the Jan 6 Capitol riot.
Chansley’s appeal came a day after the federal judge who accepted his plea and who sentenced him in U.S. District Court in Washington signed off on his move to replace his defense attorney Albert Watkins with a new lawyer, John Pierce.
The appeal came nearly a week after Scott Fairlamb, the other Capitol riot defendant whom tied Chansley for getting the longest prison term in such a case, filed his own appeal of seeking to toss out his guilty plea and sentence after changing lawyers.
It is extremely difficult to get a guilty plea and subsequent sentence in federal court reversed on appeal, particularly because judges are careful to have defendants confirm that they understand that they are waiving their rights to appeal the plea or sentence in most cases.
However, a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel — essentially an argument that a defense lawyer badly botched the case — is one potential way to win a reversal of a guilty plea.
A legal nonprofit group founded by Chansley’s new attorney last week said ineffective assistance of counsel may be a ground for Chansley to appeal his conviction. A legal filing Tuesday by Pierce did not lay out Chansley’s grounds for his appeal, which will be heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals
for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Pierce at one point had represented Kyle Rittenhouse, the Illinois man who earlier this month was acquitted at trial of criminal charges related to the fatal shooting of two men and the wounding of a third one during a civil disturbance on the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year.
A courtroom sketch of Jacob Chansley
Source: Art Lien
Chansley became one of the symbols of the pro-Trump insurrection. He was shirtless and toting a spear, while wearing face paint and a fur hat with horns when he walked into the Capitol complex on Jan. 6 with hundreds of other supporters of former President Donald Trump, disrupting the ongoing confirmation by a joint session of Congress of Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election.
Chansley, 34, ran into the Senate chamber and up to the dais where then-Vice President Mike Pence minutes before was presiding over proceedings, to leave a note warning “it’s only a matter of time, justice is coming,” prosecutors have said.
The Phoenix man, who suffers from mental illness, and who had subscribed to the bogus “QAnon” conspiracy theory, pleaded guilty Sept. 3 to obstructing a proceeding of Congress, one of six criminal counts he faced when he was indicted.
Watkins, the defense lawyer, represented Chansley in the months leading up to that plea, and negotiated with prosecutors to have the other charges dropped.
Judge Royce Lamberth sentenced Chansley on Nov. 17 to 41 months in prison, the low end of what was recommended by federal sentencing guidelines, and 10 months fewer than the high end, which is what prosecutors had requested.
I was wrong for entering the Capitol. I have no excuse. No excuse whatsoever,” Chansley told Lamberth that day, when Watkins acted as his lawyer. “The behavior is indefensible.”
“I am truly, truly repentant of my actions,” he said.
Less than a week later, Pierce filed a notice in federal court indicating he was now representing Chansley with another lawyer, William Shipley.
Watkins in a statement issued on the heels of that move said that he remained Chansley’s lawyer.
But at a hearing Monday, Chansley told Lamberth that he had fired Watkins, and was replacing him with Pierce and Shipley.
“Mr. Chansley is an extremely smart man, very intelligent, if not savant-like, and I sincerely wish him all the best in his life,” Watkins told NBC News after the hearing.