‘QAnon Shaman’s’ sentence will not be vacated

Jacob Angeli Chansley, better known
as the “QAnon Shaman” will not see his guilty plea or his sentence
vacated for his part in the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol insurrection, a federal
judge decided Thursday. 

Chansley, who grew up in the Valley
and now lives in North Phoenix, was sentenced in November 2021 to 41
months of incarceration, followed by 3 years of probation. He pleaded
guilty to a felony charge of obstructing an official proceeding as part
of a plea deal.

At his sentencing hearing, Chansley
seemingly took accountability for his actions on Jan. 6 and expressed
remorse, but after his release from prison in March, he changed his
tune.

“The Court is disappointed to learn
that, through his filings and public statements, Mr. Chansley has
recanted the contrition displayed at his sentencing nearly two years
ago,” Judge Royce Lamberth wrote in his July 20 ruling.

Lamberth, who was appointed by
President Ronald Reagan, said he handed Chansley a sentence on the lower
end of the range for his crime at least in part because of his remorse
and acceptance of responsibility. 

In the ruling, Lamberth pointed to a June 22 Arizona Mirror story
in which Chansley said that, contrary to his former lawyer Al Watkins’
statements, he never renounced QAnon or felt betrayed by former
President Donald Trump. 

In April, Chansley’s lawyer
petitioned the court to vacate his guilty plea and sentence, saying
prosecutors didn’t disclose to his lawyers video evidence that
exonerated him. He also claimed that Watkins was ineffective. 

The video evidence that Chansley and
his current attorney, William Shipley, claimed was exculpatory aired on a
March 6 episode of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on the Fox News channel. 

Carlson claimed that the footage,
which prominently featured Chansley, showed that police officers allowed
him inside the Capitol and that many of the rioters were merely
sightseers.

“These videos are decidedly not exculpatory, especially when viewed in context,” Lamberth wrote. 

While Shipley said he’d never seen
the footage, prosecutors claimed that all of the video played on the
show, except for one 10-second clip, had been made available to Watkins
prior to Chansley’s sentencing. 

The 10-second clip that was disclosed
to his defense after Chansley’s sentencing, shows him outside of the
Senate chamber, accompanied by two police officers who were leading him
away from the chamber. 

The video aired on the Carlson show
was edited and cherry-picked to exclude hours of additional footage that
showed Chansley entering the Capitol through a broken door, carrying a
six-foot-long pole with a spearhead at the end, disobeying multiple
orders from police to leave, yelling obscenities, climbing onto the
Senate dais and leaving a threatening note for then-Vice President Mike
Pence. 

Therefore, the judge denied Chansley’s motion to vacate, based on the video footage. 

“Ineffective counsel”

Chansley argued that his lawyer was
ineffective because Watkins encouraged him to accept a plea deal and
failed to demand the video footage aired during the Carlson show so it
could be presented during Chansely’s sentencing. 

“His argument is wildly speculative, contrary to established caselaw and practice, and devoid of common sense,” Lamberth wrote. 

Chansley said that if his lawyer
hadn’t persuaded him to accept the plea deal, he might have negotiated
for a better one, without an enhanced sentence and without agreeing to
waive his right to appeal.

“The Court agrees with the government
that plea counsel’s strategic choice to use his presentation to focus
on Mr. Chansley’s remorse and acceptance of responsibility, rather than
present additional video evidence in a futile attempt to contradict the
obvious facts of the case, was objectively reasonable,” Lamberth wrote. 

In exchange for his guilty plea,
prosecutors dropped several additional charges against Chansley and did
not pursue a more lengthy sentence. 

“In fact, without Mr. Chansley’s apparently unequivocal acceptance of responsibility, the Court is confident that he would have received a higher sentence,” Lamberth wrote. 

In his decision, the judge also took aim specifically at the episode of Carlson’s show that focused on the Jan. 6 footage. 

“Not only was the broadcast replete
with misstatements and misrepresentations regarding the events of
January 6, 2021 too numerous to count, the host explicitly questioned
the integrity of this Court-not to mention the legitimacy of the entire
U.S. criminal justice system- with inflammatory characterizations of
cherry-picked videos stripped of their proper context,” Lamberth wrote. 

“Those of us who have presided over
dozens of cases arising from, listened to hundreds of hours of testimony
describing, and reviewed thousands of pages of briefing about the
attack on our democracy of January 6 know all too well that neither the
events of that day nor any particular defendant’s involvement can be
fully captured in a seconds-long video carelessly, or perhaps even
cynically, aired in a television segment or attached to a tweet.”

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