Jacob Chansley — the Arizona man who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, posed on the Senate dais shirtless and wearing horns and face paint, and left a handwritten note warning “JUSTICE IS COMING!” — was sentenced on Wednesday to over three years in prison.
The 41-month prison sentence from US District Judge Royce Lamberth marked an end to one of the most high-profile Capitol riot prosecutions to date. Chansley, who has also been known as the “QAnon shaman,” wasn't charged with some of the most serious violent crimes that day, but he put himself at the center of what was arguably the most well-documented criminal event in US history and became a viral sensation.
The sentence was lower than the 51 months in prison that prosecutors had argued for — a term that would be at the highest end of the recommended range of 41 to 51 months that Chansley was facing. He had previously argued that he should be sentenced only to the amount of time behind bars that he’d already served, just over 10 months, and be allowed to go home and receive better mental healthcare treatment than he’s been able to get while in jail.
Prior to his sentence being handed down, Assistant US Attorney Kimberly Paschall spoke, slamming Chansley's supporters for painting his actions as nothing more than "peaceful" protest.
"If the defendant had been peaceful on that day, your honor, we would not be here," she said.
Chansley addressed the court during the hearing, saying he accepts responsibility for his actions, which he called “indefensible.” His time in solitary confinement has been deeply traumatic, he added, and he vowed he would never reoffend.
"I was wrong for entering the Capitol. I have no excuse — no excuse whatsoever,” he said.
Chansley’s attorney, Albert Watkins, acknowledged that the events of Jan. 6 were “repugnant” but said the defendant “would not have been in the Capitol” were it not for his mental health issues, adding that he has been diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder. “It should be the proud duty of the government to protect the weak and the vulnerable,” Watkins said.
While addressing the court, Chansley also repeatedly praised Judge Lamberth, particularly for his military service. Lamberth later thanked him, calling his remarks “heartfelt” and comparing them to something that Martin Luther King Jr. might have said.
Lamberth said he could not justify a downward departure from the sentencing guidelines, although he acknowledged Chansley’s remorse. “Even though I do think you’re genuine, what you did was terrible,” he said.
Of the more than 130 people to take a deal with prosecutors to date, most have pleaded guilty to low-level misdemeanor charges that carry far less prison time, although some felony pleas have trickled in. Last week, Lamberth sentenced Scott Fairlamb, a former mixed martial arts fighter from New Jersey, to 41 months after he pleaded guilty to punching a police officer in the head.
Chansley had been a follower of the QAnon mass delusion leading up to Jan. 6 and was already known in that community as the “QAnon shaman”; he’s said that his outfit at the Capitol reflected his belief in shamanism. He was photographed walking around the Capitol carrying a 6-foot spear with an American flag attached, an object that prosecutors treated as a weapon — although he wasn’t charged with weapon-related offenses — when they successfully argued to keep him in jail while his case was pending.
Once he made it up to the dais on the Senate floor, where then–vice president Mike Pence had been sitting before the chamber was evacuated, Chansley posed for photos and left a handwritten note that read, “ITS ONLY A MATTER OF TIME JUSTICE IS COMING!”
In the days after the riot, Chansley bragged about his participation to several news outlets. He surrendered to the FBI on Jan. 9 and has been in jail since then.
“The fact that we had a bunch of our traitors in office hunker down, put on their gas masks, and retreat into their underground bunker, I consider that a win,” Chansley told NBC News in an interview quoted by prosecutors in their successful efforts to keep him in jail after his arrest.
Chansley and his lawyer actively sought media coverage of his case after his arrest, to the judge’s dismay. Lamberth denounced an interview that Chansley had taped from jail for 60 Minutes+ earlier this year as a “publicity stunt,” saying that Chansley’s comments reflected a lack of appreciation for the gravity of the situation and contradicted representations that he’d made to the court; Chansley in court filings had tried to distance himself from his previous support for Donald Trump, but he told the interviewer that he didn’t regret his loyalty to the former president.
According to a reporter with WUSA 9, Chansley’s lawyer arrived at the courthouse on Wednesday with his own documentary crew.