Jacob Chansley, the pro-Trump Jan. 6 rioter dubbed the “QAnon Shaman,” wants out of jail. In service of that effort, defense attorney Albert Watkins enlisted the words of American master Mark Twain. Or, at least, a phrase commonly attributed to née Samuel Clemens.
“A lie can travel around the world and back again while the truth is putting on its shoes,” the first line of Chansley’s 27-page (74 pages inclusive of exhibits) pretrial release motion philosophizes.
According to the filing, which was submitted with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Tuesday afternoon, the “lie” in question is a “miccharacterization” of a “flagpole” that was in Chansley’s possession during the attack on the U.S. Capitol Complex.
When originally subjected to a detention hearing by a magistrate judge in Arizona on Jan. 15, the government argued that Chansley used a “dangerous weapon.” According to the defense, the government’s argument “required characterization of the flagpole held by [Chansley]” on Jan. 6 as a “spear.”
The defense insists the government got that assessment all wrong.
“Since the original detention hearing, interaction by the defendant’s counsel with the Department of Justice, by and through its Assistant U.S. attorney, has made clear that the flag carried by the defendant on January 6, 2021, was adorned with a finial,” the motion argues.
A finial is an ornament that’s typically at the top, bottom or corner of another object. In other words: the defense claims that Chansley did not have a weapon, he just had a flagpole with a bauble.
The motion likens that alleged finial to other certain finials.
“Specific details were confirmed with the government that that use of a spear or a finial on a spear dates to to the Native Americans, a fact consistent with the Shamanic faith of the defendant,” the motion continues. “It was further noted for the government that the U.S. Army uses the spear finial with open wings on the sides, however, the traditional Native American design only contains the central point, akin to the defendant’s flagpole.”
The filing notes that finials are abundant in America:
In fact, in indoor government federal buildings across the country, the national flag and the state flag all are adorned with finials. Government protocols generally call for the use of an eagle finial on a national flag and a spear finial on a state flag. These flags are virtually universally displayed in easily accessible public locations in all federal buildings such as to give rise to the inevitable conclusion that the government must not be too concerned that a member of the public will use the flagpole with an eagle or a spear finial as a weapon, otherwise they would not employ same across the country in federal government buildings.
The majority of the memo, of course, is not dedicated to the flagpole-finial-spear issue.
The defense argues that Chansley was particularly susceptible to former president Donald Trump‘s much-debated call-to-action and that he should not be severely punished for taking the executive at his word—while expressing remorse and introspection at the subsequent turn of events.
Watkins also argues that his client is, despite the best efforts of the courts and corrections staff, still suffering from dietary issues and that his religion weighs in favor of pre-trial release. Additionally, because Shamans apparently refuse all forms of vaccination, the memo argues, Chansley is at high risk for contracting the coronavirus (COVID-19) and also notes that pandemic precautions have preempted much of any meaningful attorney-client contact.
The memo does, however, circle back to the flagpole situation.
“The indicia previously cited by the government which caused initial trepidation on the part of the government to support or otherwise not object to the pre-trial release of the defendant relating to the flagpole have been abated,” the filing says in conclusion.
Read the full filing below:
[image via Brent Stirton/Getty Images]
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]