QAnon Shaman's Lawyer Speaks Out On Trump's Role In Capitol Riots

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Supporters of Donald Trump, including far-right extremists and QAnon conspiracy theorists, stormed the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 in a deadly attack
Supporters of Donald Trump, including far-right extremists and QAnon conspiracy theorists, stormed the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 in a deadly attack AFP / Saul LOEB

As the number of people facing charges for the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection mounts — the current tally has surpassed 400 — a novel trend has emerged in their defense arguments: that former President Donald Trump is responsible for their actions, not them. While it’s ineffective as an outright defense, attorneys say it can act as a mitigating factor going into sentencing or plea deals.

One of the highest-profile examples of this is Jacob Chansley, the so-called “QAnon Shaman.” Judge Royce Lamberth has rejected the notion that Trump’s influence could absolve Chansley of responsibility, even if he accepted the argument as sincere.

“Even taking defendant’s claim at face value, it does not persuade the Court that defendant would not pose a danger to others if released,” Lamberth about Chansley's case. “If defendant truly believes that the only reason he participated in an assault on the U.S. Capitol was to comply with President Trump’s orders, this shows defendant’s inability (or refusal) to exercise his independent judgment and conform his behavior to the law.” 

That hasn’t stopped defense lawyer Albert Watkins from attempting to soften his client’s image, noting with frank language that Chansley has Asperger’s syndrome. 

“A lot of these defendants — and I’m going to use this colloquial term, perhaps disrespectfully — but they’re all [expletive] short-bus people,” he told Talking Points Memo. “These are people with brain damage, they’re [expletive] retarded, they’re on the goddamn spectrum.”

The defense also often notes exposure to right-wing media such as Fox News, with one defendant claiming a case of “foxitis.”

“But they’re our brothers, our sisters, our neighbors, our coworkers — they’re part of our country. These aren’t bad people, they don’t have prior criminal history. [Expletive,] they were subjected to four-plus years of goddamn propaganda the likes of which the world has not seen since [expletive] Hitler,” Watkins said.




Photo: AFP / Saul LOEB

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