A federal judge has rejected Jacob “QAnon Shaman” Chansley’s request to be released to an undisclosed “secure location” with his family in Phoenix, Arizona, finding that his lawyers failed to provide any information about his would-be living arrangements.
“Understandably, defense counsel stated that he would not provide further details about that arrangement on the public record ‘to avoid disclosure of names and locations,'” Senior U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth wrote on Tuesday. “But since the hearing, which took place nearly one week ago, defense counsel has not provided any information to the Court regarding that ‘secure location.’ Without information on the arrangements that have been made, the Court is unable to assess whether this release plan would reasonably assure Chansley’s appearance as required.”
In a nine-page opinion, Judge Lamberth refused to revisit his earlier ruling that one of the most visible figures of the Jan. 6th siege of the U.S. Capitol must remain behind bars pending trial.
“Media Publicity Stunt”
In March, Lamberth scathingly denied Chansley’s first bid for pre-trial release, finding that the 34-year-old was both a flight risk and a danger to the community. That decision fell on the heels of Chansley’s debut appearance with his flamboyant lawyer Albert Watkins on 60 Minutes+, an interview that Judge Lamberth derided as a “media publicity stunt” that violated prison protocols and harmed his legal defense.
The CBS program also interviewed Martha Chansley, the accused Capitol invader’s mother, whose dubious remarks that her son “walked through open doors” and was “escorted into the Senate” left Lamberth believing she rationalized her son’s alleged conduct.
“The Court is not persuaded that defendant’s mother will ensure his compliance with any conditions of release imposed, and defendant identifies no other custodian,” the judge wrote in March.
Seeking to revisit that ruling, Chansley told the judge that he has other close relatives in the area, including his maternal grandfather, maternal step-grandmother, maternal uncle, maternal aunt, two cousins and one of his brothers. Chansley also vowed to procure mental health care from a licensed psychologist in the area if was released.
But Judge Lamberth found that those family ties “do not mitigate any of the other concerns” he identified months ago.
“As Chansley’s family connections have not prevented him from traveling undetected in the past, the Court is unpersuaded that they will prevent him from doing so again in the future. Moreover, Chansley maintains that if released to Phoenix pending trial, he would return home to live with his mother,” the judge’s memorandum opinion states. “But the Court already rejected that arrangement as insufficient, and Chansley does not propose a new custodian.”
There has been extensive media interest in Chansley’s case since even before his arrest.
Captured by photojournalists roaming shirtless around the U.S. Capitol, Chansley’s tattoos, face paint, horned headdress and apparent belief in the QAnon conspiracy theory burnished his image as the so-called “QAnon Shaman.” Watkins leaned into his client’s image, even filing a successful motion for Chansley to receive organic food in jail based on his supposed shamanic faith. Scholars of shamanism have generally denied organic meals are a tenet of the faith, but Judge Lamberth found in Chansley’s favor. The judge’s acquiescence was in part premised upon a refusal by federal prosecutors to contest the defendant’s dietary requests. Prosecutors ultimately declined to accept Chansley’s invitation to make the matter one of constitutional concern.
“Justice is Coming”
Lamberth added that even if the family ties eased his flight risk concerns, his previous findings about Chansley’s danger to the community remain present. Chansley, who roamed around the U.S. Senate dressed in a horned and coyote-fur headdress, allegedly left former vice president Mike Pence a note at his dais calling him a “traitor.”
“It’s only a matter of time,” the note read. “Justice is coming!”
In trying to reopen Chansley’s detention hearing, attorney Watkins played down the prosecution’s contention that his client carried a “spear” into the U.S. Capitol that could have been used as a deadly weapon.
“Specifically, defense counsel says that the ‘finial’ on Chansley’s ‘flagpole’ was ‘affixed to the pole with a zip tie’ and thus could not have been used as a weapon,” Judge Lamberth summarized, before finding that his defense has not made the showing required to revisit his old ruling.
“Chansley has not proffered any new information that has a “material bearing” on the issue whether any conditions of release would reasonably assure that he does not flee pending trial,” Lamberth wrote. “Thus, even if the Court were to find that Chansley has proffered new information that has a ‘material bearing’ on the issue of his dangerousness, the Court has no occasion to reconsider Chansley’s flight risk, which was an independent justification for detaining him while he awaits his trial.”
Lamberth found that Chansley’s latest bid for release “largely rehashes many of the arguments” unsuccessfully floated months ago.
Watkins was dismayed by the ruling.
“For better or worse, Mr. Chansley has become an iconic image associated with January 6, akin to Nike’s swoosh,” the defense attorney said to Law&Crime in a Tuesday email. “An optics driven world does not always yield justice.”
Read the ruling below:
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